Schools, law enforcement establish unified plan to protect students from active shooters

By Don Coble don@claytodayonline.com
Posted 8/3/22

CLAY COUNTY – School officials and law enforcement laid out plans last Monday to keep Clay County schools safer from active shooters.

During the past month, every public school, as well as the …

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Schools, law enforcement establish unified plan to protect students from active shooters

Posted

CLAY COUNTY – School officials and law enforcement laid out plans last Monday to keep Clay County schools safer from active shooters.

During the past month, every public school, as well as the larger private and charter schools, have been fortified when fencing, single-access points and security cameras to minimize the risk of a school tragedy that has become all-too-common in the country.

The school district, school police department, members of the Clay County Sheriff’s, Fire Rescue and Emergency Management and the Green Cove Springs and Orange Park police departments have met with the administrations to create an emergency response plan specific to the needs of each school.

“You know Clay County is a great place to live,” said Superintendent David Broskie. “It’s a great place to work, and it’s a great place for kids to go to school. There’s little doubt there’s no doubt about that. You know, one of our most sacred challenges is ensuring that all students are safe.”

After reviewing mass casualty attacks at schools like Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in 2018 and at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, Clay County officials said they worked to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each school.

“We started meeting about a month ago to discuss school safety and the importance of school safety, and what are our plans moving forward? To the parents that are out there? Let me just say this, I promise you we’re going to keep your kids safe – law enforcement, fire rescue emergency management and school administration,” Sheriff Michelle Cook said. “We have all been working together and will continue to work together to keep our kids safe. I am committed to our kids and I’m committed to their safety.”

Cook and Broskie said fences around every school will make it more difficult for a shooter to gain access to a classroom. Even if someone can scale a fence, they are likely to be seen on security cameras. And since buildings can only be accessed at the primary entrance, the threat can be intercepted by law enforcement before gaining entry.

Orange Park High is the last school to be outfitted with modern security. The front office area is being expanded, and the renovations include a secure front door and new security surveillance.

Each public school has a dedicated school district police officer or a member of the Green Cove Springs or Orange Park police department assigned to it.

Easy access, lack of on-site leadership, conflicting or lack of communication and the absence of an active shooter plan all were cited as contributing factors for the combined deaths of 38 students and teachers at Stoneman and Uvalde.

“As with any critical no-fail mission team play continues to ensure that we are ready to support the citizens of Clay County,” said county deputy director of emergency management Mike Ladd. “We only do this through teamwork as was already alluded to by the superintendent and sheriff partnerships that you see in Clay County is unparalleled statewide, some of the best that I’ve seen. They’re collaborative. They’re intentional, and they’re thorough.”\

“As we’ve already listed a lot of the partnerships that came together with law enforcement, fire rescue, administration, emergency management, all that collective I think the most valuable one or the one that I would really call his hallmark is the inclusion of the administration of leadership for every single school that had that vested interest to make sure we know exactly what the plan was, what was specifically different in the location and how to best anticipate some of the challenges that that come from that.”

Ladd said the days of meetings, including a class with officials from Tynes Elementary later Monday to finalize their response.

“Secondarily, none of this happens without good planning,” Ladd said. “No one plans in a vacuum, effectively, and that’s exactly what you’re gonna see is that we did not plan in that vacuum. Unlike some plans, having stakeholders at the table is absolutely vital. And that in practice was worth its weight in gold. We never have to you know everybody here wants to you know we all pray we never have to use these plans. But we cannot gamble on the fact that we have to and we failed to do this planning section.”

Cook said a hierarchy has been established for a single point of authority. Law enforcement has been drilled in schools during the summer to react to a possible active shooter and the county’s emergency communication system, SaferWatch, will keep parents, residents and students informed in real-time.

“This plan takes into account the school’s lockdown plan, our law enforcement response plan and fire rescue’s response and treatment plans, and it combines those plans into one seamless effort to quickly and effectively neutralize a threat, treat the injured and reunify our kids with their families,” Cook said.

“We know that following any critical incident at a school, there’s going to be chaos. The goal of these plans, which we call ‘CHIRP’ – county hazard incident response plan. The goal is to develop immediate action plans to control that chaos.

“We know that we must work together as a team or we will fail our kids. I promise you Clay County, we will not fail our kids.”

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