Schools, police remain vigilant following Newtown shooting

Published 2:23 pm Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The tragic shooting Friday in Newtown, Conn., that took the lives of 20 elementary school students and six teachers has sparked local conversations about school safety.

Butler County Schools Superintendent Darren Douthitt said that while no one expects a similar incident to happen here, the school system has taken steps to prepare for such incidents.

“It can happen anywhere,” Douthitt said following an earlier school shooting in March. “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.”

According to Douthitt, approximately 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 more than 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.”

Fort Dale Academy also has a plan in place to deal with incidents similar to the one that occurred in Newtown.

FDA headmaster David 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.

The Greenville Police Department’s Special Response Team regularly trains in order to be prepared for situations that could arise at area schools.

“We run drills at the schools, and we have all the layouts of every school in the city and some in the county,” said Lt. Justin Lovvorn, SRT team leader. “We have done controlled drills during school and have done drills when school is in regular session because we need to see how (our plan) will function with students and teachers in the school. We’ve learned a lot from those drills, and we feel like we have a good plan in place for responding to any incidents that might come up like the one in Connecticut. It could happen here, just like it could happen anywhere else, so we have to be prepared.”

Greenville Police Chief Lonzo Ingram said he believes the answer to stopping school shootings is not implementing more laws, but utilizing more programs.

“We had a program called Cops in Schools that was funded by the federal government, which put a police officer in every school,” he said. “The government paid for most of the cost for those officers, who were then assigned to a school. But they’ve cut that program, and it’s a program that needs to come back. It was a good program. It was a program that worked, and a program that made our schools safer. Those are the kinds of things we need to be looking at. Adding more laws isn’t going to fix the problem.”