March 27-- Representatives from three area school systems discussed school safety and security issues in the aftermath of the school slaughter in Florida.
Vidalia School Superintendent Dr. Garret Wilcox, Vidalia High School Principal John Sharpe, Toombs County School Superintendent Richard Smith and the Federal Programs Coordinator in the Montgomery County schools, Julie Harrelson, were guests on "Straight Talk With Wilson Johnson" on NewsTalk WVOP in Vidalia.
Dr. Wilcox says discussions are taking place to control access to the schools in Vidalia, "The biggest thing we've done in the last few weeks is we had a representative from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency come through. We walked through all the buildings and the worst thing we have is how open our campuses are. We met with our architect last week about some controlled access points that we feel will be a big help at our elementary and primary schools," he said.
In the Toombs County schools, Superintendent Smith said, "We're looking at ways to better control access to our buildings. We've had a school resource officer in place through the Lyons Police Department for a number of years and we're looking at ways to add to that number, too."
The Montgomery County school system is planning on more classroom security, according to Julie Harrison, "We're looking at some night lock pieces to go in each classroom on the inside. In addition to securing the fronts of our buildings, this would also allow our teachers to lock their classrooms from the inside."
Vidalia Principal John Sharpe thinks there's another important step, "One of the biggest things is trying to identify kids ahead of time. In Florida, there were a lot of red flags that went up. Everybody on board has to take all of these things serious. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure if we can establish relationships with kids and make a difference with them. A lot times you have hurting kids and these hurting kids go out and make terrible choices."
Neither Smith nor Sharpe favor arming teachers. Sharpe said, "For schools which do not have resource officers, maybe they should have someone like an administrator be trained to have some form of defense, but for teachers, I can't see that. I think it would be a bad decision," he said.