School safety at the top of the priority list for districts around the state

Published: Aug. 5, 2022 at 7:39 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - As we’ve spoken to different districts about back to school, we noticed a common thread. Many of the superintendents have talked about making safety a priority.

In the Madison County School District, they’ve worked to make sure that folks aren’t getting in right at the front door. They’ve added what’s best described as a holding area at the front of most campuses. You can speak with a receptionist there, but doors that lead to the school hallways remain locked until someone lets individuals in.

Madison County School Safety Director James Thompson makes it a point to not only discuss best practices but get school staff the training they need to be prepared for a worst-case scenario.

“We’ve heightened security, especially with local law enforcement, due to what took place in Texas, just to make sure and ensure that our buildings are securely locked up, no exterior doors open to give easy access, and safety is our main priority,” said James Thompson. “I know you think education first, but you have to have a safe environment for you to have that learning environment.”

That partnership with local law enforcement is key in the districts’ overall plan.

“Allowing them to come into our school to see how the school is laid out to know how to respond to that incident, know where they’re going once they get here,” added Thomspon. “And then they have their own ways of dealing with issues once they get inside the building.”

Rankin County says not much has changed in the district, but they’re continuing to drill down on preparation.

“Every school is required to do a minimum set of drills throughout the year,” said Rankin County Schools Administrator of School Safety Brian Grantham. “We assist them with focusing on that. We do a lot of our trainings. We hit it hard and heavy right before the students come back. Because there’s certain trainings that we can do with the kids there, and they’re certain that we can’t without them.”

“Just to put them in real-life situations so that they can go through that and think through the process of, you know, if something happened,” added Rankin County School District Security Administrator Jesse Pagart.

Several districts statewide have done their first active shooter drills in recent weeks. State law requires districts to conduct those within 60 days of each semester.

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