Administrators take steps to keep schools safe

Published 2:13 pm Friday, March 2, 2012

After a school shooting in Chardon, Ohio, that left three students dead and two more seriously injured, people may wonder what the Butler County School System is doing and has done to ensure the safety of students locally.

Superintendent Darren Douthitt said he is not one of those superintendents that believes that an incident like that could never happen here.

“It can happen anywhere,” Douthitt said. “I offer my condolences to the leadership in those schools where it happened. We do our best to be vigilant to make sure we keep kids as safe as possible and our administrators do a great job of it.”

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Douthitt and the Butler County Board of Education has taken certain measures to help students, teachers and administrators feel safe in the schools, as well as work with parents to make them feel better about sending their child to school.

“Our uniform policy helps us big time,” Douthitt said. “A lot people don’t understand the need for uniforms, but I think the uniform is intended to keep these kind of issues of safety to a minimum.”

Uniforms help prevent students from bringing in weapons through jackets and baggy clothing, Douthitt said.

As another cautionary step, about 50 first responders have mapped out every school in the county and can connect to the school at any time through surveillance called Virtual Alabama that was implemented a year ago.

“That adds a layer of security that will allow us to minimize an incident that could occur on our campuses,” Douthitt said.

“That’s one of the things I pursued that I thought was necessary. I’d rather be safe than sorry.”

Along with the Butler County Schools, Fort Dale Academy has also taken safety precautions.

“I think it’s a situation that hopefully in a smaller school we know the students well,” Headmaster David Brantley said. “We are consistently sensitive to that kind of an issue.”

Brantley said the school has a lockdown procedure that the teachers are familiar with and can direct the students in if an incident occurred.

“We never say that it can’t happen here,” Brantley said. “Because most of our high school students have been with us for 10 or 12 years, we know their families and home life. I would never say that we would ignore the possibility that it could happen in any high school or middle school in America or anywhere for that matter.”

Douthitt said the best way to keep students safe is breaking down the communication barrier between students, teacher and parents.

“A lot of it goes back to regular communication between parents and kids,” Douthitt said. “That’s an opportunity for us to deal with a problem before it gets to the point before someone commits acts of violence.”