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In wake of Connecticut tragedy, school officials here review security procedures

Posted on Friday, January 11, 2013 at 9:00 am

Students at Lynchburg Elementary School returned from the holiday break to find signs like this one posted on doors throughout the school. (MCN Photo by Robert Holman)

Moore County school teachers spent a large part of their Jan. 3 in-service day reviewing security procedures. Just three weeks after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut that left 20 children and six staff members dead, school officials here took the day to brush up on school safety policies.

When children arrived back at school on Jan. 4, they found that doors would be locked throughout the school and that each individual classroom door would be locked as well.

At Lynchburg Elementary School, signs were posted throughout the building alerting children of the locked doors that were once easily accessible.

“As a parent, I feel better telling people that we’re making every effort to keep our children safe,” said LES principal Thomas Fuhrman. “We aren’t putting things in place to instill fear in our children, but to assure them that they are in a safe school.”

Fuhrman said that during the in-service the faculty went over a number of measures that were already in place. With the help of school resource officer Justin Grogan, the teachers and staff discussed a range of scenarios.

Grogan said he first worked with the teachers at Moore County Middle School and Moore County High School and then went to LES. He said what started out as a one-hour refresher course at MCHS turned into an engaging 2 1/2-hour exchange of ideas.

“We felt there was a need to make sure that every teacher and staff member was versed in the emergency protocols,” said Grogan. “There are times when you put that aside because you live in a good place with good kids.

“But the acts in Connecticut put everybody’s safety in question. What are your methods? What are your protocols and procedures? We took the information from our emergency preparedness plans and we talked about how a teacher needs to respond in each of those situations. We broke it down and we put some scenarios together.”

After working through scenarios at the high school, Grogan spent the afternoon at LES. That included taking tours of classrooms at both schools in order to assess different situations. He said it was especially encouraging thanks to the quality of participation by the faculty at each campus.

“The teachers wanted to know. The teachers had wonderful feedback, and they wanted to know, ‘Where do we need to go? What do we need to do?’” said Grogan. “That day was a good day because everybody was engaged in the conversation.”

Along with the procedures already in place, the school system recently installed an identification system at each school that scans visitor’s driver’s license, giving on-the-spot background checks.

“What the LobbyGuard system does is scan each person’s driver’s license, runs it through the sex offender registry on the state level and the national level and it throws up a red flag if they are in the sex offenders registry or if there are any warrants out.”

The LobbyGuard system can also be customized, or tailored with an array of options for a school’s specific needs.

While school officials try to do as much as possible to keep children safe, Grogan suggested that it has as much to do with awareness as anything else.

“The biggest thing is understanding the security aspect of it,” he said. “We can do a pretty good job on the inside. It’s securing the perimeter that’s not as easy and that’s important.”