After Newtown, Beaufort County School District tries to reassure parents on school security

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BEAUFORT COUNTY

After Newtown, Beaufort County School District tries to reassure parents on school security

By TOM BARTON
tbarton@beaufortgazette.com
Published Tuesday, January 15, 2013   |  561 Words  |  

Before Chris Barrow could don his disguise, Lady's Island Middle School officials were on to him.

"I was still in my car in the parking lot when I got a call from the (school resource officer) saying staff had already spotted me," Barrow, the Beaufort County School District's Protective Services Coordinator, told the Board of Education at its meeting Tuesday. He was spotted on one of his frequent audits of school security measures. Those audits involve wearing a disguise and trying to slip into schools unseen.

"They saw my car bumper peeking from behind a bush on the school camera and noticed it didn't belong," said the Marine Corps veteran who retired after 25 years with the Middletown, Conn., Police Department.

Barrow's comments came as part of an update the board heard on district security and emergency response protocols, intended to reassure parents and the public about school safety a month after the Newtown, Conn., school massacre.

"What parents should know is the planning and preparation the district has undertaken is extensive," board chairman Bill Evans said after the meeting. "We are -- and have been -- proactive and are concerned and take seriously that these events take place and could happen anywhere."

Barrow reiterated that school lobbies have been redesigned so visitors must be buzzed in through one door at the front entrance and sign in using a photo ID. Visitors are then either routed through school offices or greeted by a receptionist at the door before they can enter the main building.

Each classroom also has flip charts with instructions on how teachers, staff and administrators should respond to a variety of threats and emergencies including power outages, plane crashes, hurricanes, school lockdowns, or the discovery of a suspicious person or weapon on school grounds.

Every school has detailed plans -- down to designating an area where parents can pick up their children in an emergency, Barrow said.

The plans are reviewed and drills conducted annually, including regular "table top drills," where administrators and staff lay out the chain of events that would take place should their school be threatened. Law enforcement and emergency responders helped create the plans and have copies of school floor plans and photos.

Barrow said the district is working on making school video surveillance feeds available to law enforcement in real time in emergency situations.

He said he also performs crime mapping of arrests and certain crimes at each school on a daily basis, with data recorded on large maps of the district.

Board member Geri Kinton was particularly impressed by the flip-charts in every classroom.

"It gives you sense of confidence that if something happens, teachers and staff will know what to do," Kinton said.

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