Shootings expected to prompt reviews of campus security procedures

By BRUCE ALSOBROOK | News-Telegram Managing Editor

Apr. 17, 2007 - Expect school campuses across the country to begin reviewing security procedures in the wake of Monday's horrific shootings in Virginia.

"I think every college and university in the United States will do that,” said Paul Bailey, information services coordinator for Paris Junior College.

�The shooting that resulted in loss of life at Virginia Tech is tragic and gives us all cause to pause and look at our situations,� said Dr. Pamela Anglin, president of Paris Junior College. �Paris Junior College and other colleges and universities do all they can to protect students, including providing a security force and having an emergency plan in place that covers many different scenarios. In all things, we do the best we can to help our students be secure and safe.�

That extends to the PJC-Sulphur Springs Center, where director Linda Bennett expressed confidence in the security system currently in place.

�We come under Sulphur Springs ISD�s security plan, and they have a very good and thorough plan for any type of emergency,� Bennett said today.

Sulphur Springs Independent School District, has made campus security a high priority in recent years.

"We want to do everything we possibly can," Superintendent Patsy Bolton said. "It's important for students to feel safe and for parents to feel their children are safe. It [security] is not something you can just do and put on the shelf — you have to keep working on it."

The outside doors are locked at all elementary school campuses, for example. Before the start of school, access is limited. After 8:30 a.m., visitors have to "buzz in" to be allowed inside, and only through the front.

"At the middle school and high school, it's more difficult," Bolton said, noting students have to change buildings for some classes. "It's almost an impossibility to keep all of the doors locked."

The way students prepare for emergencies has changed, as well. Once, the only emergency preparations children practiced were fire drills.

"Now, we practice lockdowns," Bolton said.

The district has also started the arduous process of changing classroom doors to ones that can be locked only from inside, beginning at Lamar Elementary School.

SSISD has also adoped emergency procedures, working with emergency services agencies such as police, fire and EMS "so we all speak the same language," Bolton added. That includes "flip charts" at each campus with instructions on what to do in the event of an emergency, such as an explosion, and intruder or a hostage situation.

Last fall, the district received $25,000 in federal grant money to install keyless entry locks at Sulphur Springs High School and Middle School, purchase an additional security system and pay for security training.

Sherry Garrard, the district's emergency coordinator, takes advantage of training sessions and workshops to bring new ideas for improving security in the district.

Still, Bolton acknowledges  there are some things that can't be foreseen.

"With everything we've done — and we have spent a lot of time, effort and money beefing up security — realistically, we know that if somebody wants to do something crazy, we may not be able to stop them," Bolton said.

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