Local schools prepared for the worst

Sarah Perry and Elisha Morrison
Staff Writers

After 17 people were killed during a school shooting in Florida this week, school districts officials across the nation, including educators in Saline County, are reminded about protecting their students.

District officials at Benton, Bryant, Bauxite and Harmony Grove school districts said they are committed to keeping students and staff members safe.

Chad Withers, principal of Harmony Grove High School, lamented that tragedies like the one in Florida occur way to often.

Each district has a plan for an incident involving an active shooter and the schools have locked doors to keep students and teachers safe.
Bryant and Benton schools utilize the ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) method as one response to an active shooter.

ALICE advocates options in responding to active shooter situations. Administrators received training in this method. Teachers are provided annual training and in turn train students through the use of videos and story scenarios, according to Devin Sherrill, communications director for the Bryant School District.

Sgt. Quinton Jackson, with the Benton Police Department, serves as supervisor for the five school resource officers in Benton. He said for younger students, officers read the book “I’m not scared. I’m prepared.”
As part of their crisis planning, Saline County school districts also perform drills routinely with students and teachers so they know how to respond during an active shooter situation.

“It’s unfortunate that we have to practice these, but it’s the reality of the world we live in,” Jackson said.
All of the school districts also have school resource officers to protect students.

Along with school resources officers, Benton police officers are required to stop by the schools located in the area they are patrolling at least once a day.
This requirement gives officers the opportunity to get to know the students and teachers, Jackson said.

In Bryant, educators also use the RAVE Panic Button application. Administrators push one button to notify authorities, increasing response time. Staff members may sign up to receive instant notifications via text and/or email, Sherrill said.
Due to the size of the campus, at Bryant High School there are full-time campus monitors who patrol during school hours. Monitors check cars entering and leaving campus.

Any student who leaves class must wear a yellow vest and carry a student ID. This procedure aids staff in recognizing individuals who do not belong on campus, Sherrill added.
At Harmony Grove, administrators works to limit traffic on campus. Withers said he knows parents want to see their children and some policies are not popular, but they are important to keep students safe.

Withers added that the entire community can help to keep schools safe.
Withers encourages anyone, including students, teachers, parents and members of the community, to be constantly aware. He asks that anyone who hears or sees anything suspicious to contact the school and the police. He said diligence can help prevent things from happening.

The Bauxite School Board, a few years ago, approved adding barricade devices to classrooms which attach to a door and prevent it from being broken down, according to Doug Quinn, director of student support services for Bauxite School District.