Local schools have safety plan in place

Law officer on duty daily at each campus
Dec. 18, 2012 @ 11:59 PM

If the unthinkable happens, Sevier County schools are prepared.

"We have a crisis management plan in case something of this magnitude occurs," Director of Schools Jack Parton said Monday, referring to Friday's horrific school shootings in Newtown, Conn.

For security reasons, Parton disclosed only a few details of the plan. One is that command posts are to be set up if a crisis occurs.

"Different personnel in each school have different responsibilities," he said.

"We have a lot of conversations with faculty about this," said school system administrator Debra Cline.

A law-enforcement officer is on duty every school day at each of the county's 27 schools, which serve about 14,700 students. Schools are monitored by video cameras.

"We have a very close relationship with law enforcement in the cities and the county," Parton said.

Sevier County schools enforce safety-related rules, including one requiring that backpacks be made of transparent or mesh material.

"They can't have baggy clothing," said Parton of students. "They can't have big pockets. Their jackets cannot cover their pockets. When they come into the building, they have to take big coats off."

After the shootings on Friday, Parton emailed all the county principals to make sure they were prepared for an emergency.

"I asked the school resources officers to be on heightened awareness, if a possible copycat situation occurred," Parton said. "We surveyed the locks on all the schools to make sure security was at its highest."

Monday morning, Parton said, some county schools practiced lockdown drills.

"It's of the highest degree of importance that children are safe in the school environment before any learning takes place," Parton said. "That's our number-one responsibility."

"Our hearts are greatly saddened by what happened in Connecticut," said Cline. "The most precious thing to all of us is our children."

kburns@themountainpress.com