Footage from the security system is displayed in the main office for monitoring during the school day at a Southern Indiana elementary school. Cameras are able to be accessed remotely by school officials and law enforcement, should the need arise. Staff photo by Tyler Stewart
Footage from the security system is displayed in the main office for monitoring during the school day at a Southern Indiana elementary school. Cameras are able to be accessed remotely by school officials and law enforcement, should the need arise. Staff photo by Tyler Stewart
SOUTHERN INDIANA — On Feb. 14, 2018, a gunman killed 17 people and injured 19 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla.

The Parkland shooting, along with many others that have occurred throughout the country in the past year, were catalysts of change for local school corporations as they looked for ways to enhance school safety, from building security to awareness efforts.

School systems in Clark and Floyd counties have increased building security through upgrades to technology and updated safety procedures, and several have added extra school resource officers. 

School officials say recent school shootings have also emphasized the importance of the "see something, say something" mentality. So in addition to security measures like locked doors, background checks and lockdown drills, they are working to find other ways to proactively prevent potential acts of violence.

Chad Schenck, projects and safety supervisor at Greater Clark County Schools, said kids are often having to grow up much quicker as they learn about school shootings such as Parkland, and the use of social media often makes the threat of violence seem more real to students, even if they live thousands of miles away.

"It's sobering, and there's an element of fear and social and emotional trauma they have to work through, whether they're 10 feet, 10 miles or 1,000 miles away, " he said.

GREATER CLARK

Schenck said anytime a school shooting occurs anywhere in the country, it gives the school system a heightened sense of urgency, and school officials revisit and improve safety plans.

The school administration meets at least monthly to discuss ways to handle various scenarios to make sure each staff member knows exactly what their role would be in case of a school shooting, he said. The Clark County Sheriff's office also added an additional officer at New Washington Elementary School for the 2018-19 school year.

As money becomes available, GCCS would like to upgrade cameras to high definition rather than analog, in addition to increasing other security measures, Schenck said.

He emphasized the importance of the school resource officers' roles in getting to know students in the schools and making them feel comfortable to say something if they see signs of potential danger. They are the first line of defense, he said.

Social media also plays a major role in recent safety considerations. Last week, GCSS received increased security after a social media threat was shared between students. The Jeffersonville Police Department immediately began an investigation, and parents and staff in the school system were notified.

Jeffersonville police soon found that the threat was not credible and unrelated to GCCS. Schenck said he would rather investigate a social media threat and find it to be non-credible than ignore a concerning social media post, and he urges anyone to report suspicious content.

NEW ALBANY-FLOYD COUNTY

Bill Wiseheart, director of facilities for New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp., has been part of the school district for about 30 years, and he's seen a number of changes in school safety, particularly after the Columbine shooting in 1999.

After the Parkland shooting, the school corporation changed its lockdown procedures almost immediately. Seconds count in an active shooter situation, he said, so the school system switched to an automatic system to quickly alert the school of a lockdown situation. Before, someone would have to physically use the PA system.

"If we see a perceived weakness, we try to take care of it immediately," he said.

Wiseheart said school shootings teach staff to be flexible in school safety drills and procedures. For example, it is important to consider possibilities like a false fire alarm, which occurred in the Parkland shooting.

"You don't know exactly what scenario might manifest," he said. "You can't get tunnel vision in thinking something would happen a certain way. There are thousands of different variations, and you have to think through different scenarios and possibilities."

CLARKSVILLE COMMUNITY SCHOOLS

Scott Gardner, transportation director and safety specialist for Clarksville Community Schools, said after the Parkland shooting, the school worked with the Clarksville Police Department and a SWAT team for a walk-through of the school buildings to review safety procedures. 

In 2018, the school system received grants for a variety of safety measures, including hand-held radios for communication across departments, additional outdoor lighting and installation of armored security windows. The Raptor System for background checks was also installed at Clarksville High School and Renaissance Academy.

The school system has a full counseling program at place at the elementary, middle and high school levels, Gardner said, and mental health counselors are available at each building to address issues such as anger management and conflict resolution.

He said while the district has counseling services available at each school, he would like to see additional mental health counseling services for students and families in the school system to further address issues, such as anger management.

"When it comes to mental health, you never really know what you would have prevented," Gardner said. "With any opportunity for a student to talk to someone they trust and find solutions instead of conflict, there's no telling what you might have prevented. You also open lines of communication for students so that when they hear about something that feels not right, they feel comfortable going to someone."

WEST CLARK

Thomas Brillhart, assistant superintendent at West Clark Community Schools, said after the Parkland shooting, the school looked into how it could improve things such as safety staff training in each facility.

West Clark has added more security elements in each of its buildings in the past year, he said, and it has formed a school safety committee consisting of teachers, administration, nursing, parents and law enforcement to discuss needed improvements.

The school system collaborated with the Clark County Sheriff's Office to add security at its buildings. In 2018, West Clark added school resource officers at Silver Creek Primary and the Borden campus, and it added security guards at the Silver Creek campus.

Brillhart said shootings like those at Parkland emphasize the importance of living in a state of awareness of risks to school safety. He said while he doesn't recommend people to live in a state of fear, it is important to be aware of one's surroundings, whether it's a physical space or on social media.

"I think the unfortunate realities to any kind of school safety issue is that it does wake you up, and it does make sure that it stays on the front burner," Brillhart said.

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