An incident that happened in Jefferson County last week left many parents, your editor included, wondering exactly what the Jefferson County board of Education was thinking.
According to police reports, there were two individuals who were seen as attempting to gain access or at least trying to find information on how to gain access to three local elementary schools. One of those schools, again, according to police, included Shepherdstwon Elementary.In response to the "Be on the Lookout" (BOLO) that was issued by the police following a report of the incidents, our neighbors in Berkeley County put all their schools on "lockdown" or "alert" and notified their parents of such via the email system.
Jefferson County did none of that. In fact, to this writing, it is completely unclear what exactly each school within Jefferson County did to react to the event, what the Board of Education did and what the police did. We go with police information as most reliable as we know officers were dispatched and a statement was made by the Sheriff. The final report we hear is that Jefferson County Schools saw no need to react with any measure of safety precautions and did not go into a "lockdown" or secure mode.
Our question is: Why not? With the possibility of individuals trying to gain access to elementary schools for an unknown purpose, why were security precautions not instituted? Does the county school system have such precautions in place? Are their "codes" given to let teachers know certain situations and how to deal with them? Have parents ever been notified that such systems are in place and notified of what particular "codes" mean so that in today's world of social media when everyone is up to the minute on details via Facebook and text messaging, the parents realize what the potential threat may be to their children?
As a parent of children in this system for more years than I care to count, I can say I have never been made aware of any such system. I have to go on blind faith believing that it exists, because, frankly, what school system wouldn't have one? We are kidding ourselves if we believe we could not be the next Sandy Hook or Columbine. Our leaders need to take every precaution to ensure that doesn't happen even if it means going "overboard" when they don't think an issue exists.
In that same vein, they need, in today's modern social media society, to notify parents as quickly as possible as well. A voice mail system is in existence in this county for all who sign up to receive it. I got a call that school was starting; I didn't get a call that there was any security measure being taken for a possible concern to children's safety. Instead, I joined thousands of other parents on Facebook looking for clues as to how our system was handling the issue; or more aptly, not handling it.
Perhaps the Board of Education, who is top heavy on administration including a "coordinator" for this and an "assistant superintendent" for that needs to employ a simple Public Information Officer who gives truthful, consistent information to each school, parent and media outlet.