Commissioner Charlotte Peak-Jones invited Director of Bradley County Schools Johnny McDaniel to address the Bradley County Commission during the voting session Monday afternoon on the school safety protocol. Commissioner Peak-Jones said, “After the tragic events last Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, I had a few concerned parents call wanting to know what the protocol was for the safety of our children in our schools.”
McDaniel explained, “We take our responsibility very serious every day. When an incident like this occurs, it really causes us to reflect on what we are doing and what we have in place and it makes us be more vigilant as we go about our day to day activities. We have had a safe schools grant since 2006 to help move Bradley county forward as far as safety and planning for these kinds of events. We received a REMS Grant two years ago, Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools. Because of that grant, we have a safe schools officer that works part time for Bradley County and part time for Cleveland City. We share that officer. They go to our schools and look at our plan and help us know how we can improve safety measures across the system. That officer’s name is Scotty Hernandez.
“At all of our schools, we ask all of our visitors to sign in at the office. We have check in procedures and excellent safety at all of our schools. We have tried to provide safe and secure entryways like that at Sandy Hook Elementary. As you heard through reports, he actually shot his way into the school, but that initial barrier slowed him down.”
“In Bradley County, we do have SROs (School Resource Officers) at all of our schools with the exception of our alternative school, Goal Academy. We would like to have a safe secure entryway in all of our schools. Valley View Elementary has that. We did that when we remodeled. There is only one way in and one way out. Park View Elementary has that also. We are working on that for all of our schools.
“We have ID badges for all school personnel. Faculty and staff are required to stop anyone in the building without a badge. That is an important feature for us for adults who enter the buildings. We have safety procedures in place for emergency situations. We have safety teams that review procedures. That concern is ongoing. We do drills where we practice lockdowns and practice how we would respond. Along with the Emergency Management Agency (EMA), we practice response and emergency plans. Those are important things so first responders know where to go in our buildings and know our buildings. That is a key to quick response.”
Safe Schools Officer Scotty Hernandez addressed the commission explaining his role in keeping schools safe. He said, “I have a very interesting position with the city and the county because I am split between the two. It started from the REMS Grant and holistically from the Homeland Security Act. So, the trickle-down effect was how do we implement that into our businesses and schools thru NEMS, the National Emergency Management System?
“We have plans in place for all hazards and emergencies including active shooters. Unfortunately, we have to have those these days. We plan, organize and equip. We train and exercise those plans and then we evaluate those plans and re-implement those plans as needed. We work in close conjunction with the sheriff’s office and with the city police and with community partners. Part of my job is I go to the schools and ask questions and evaluate surroundings through what we call Crime Prevention through Environment and Design. We see how things work, how traffic flows and how students flow throughout the buildings. We put in different controls where they need to be implemented. It’s an ongoing effort. In older buildings, it can be a challenge as we face older buildings with new technology.”
Dan Glasscock, secondary supervisor and contact for the SRO program, addressed the commission explaining, “I coordinate all the SROs with the school system. As Mr. McDaniel mentioned, one of the concerns we have is our alternative school. It really warrants police presence there so that is a concern for us. SROs work in conjunction with our schools. They are not our employees, but it has been a great working relationship. We could use some more personnel. I think this is a concern. We haven’t had a review of that. However, we have not heard any concerns of that this year. Our primary concern is our SROs availability in the buildings.”
Commissioner Peak Jones asked, “Currently in our schools we cannot carry handguns if you have a permit, so you cannot protect yourself on school property, is that correct?” Mr. McDaniel responded, “That is correct. We have an employee that is a former police officer that is well trained and even he is not allowed to do that. I am a proud gun permit holder and I do not carry my gun according to the law on any school campus. It would be interesting to see if they could implement a way to provide people who are competently trained. I’d certainly be in favor of looking at that. It seems that if those schools have been able to defend themselves, some of that might have been stopped and maybe they would have been able save more lives.”
In other business, County Finance Director Lynn Burns updated the commission on the current audit report. The full report is available for review on the county website at www.Bradleyco.net.
A motion was unanimously passed to appoint seven members to a workhouse study committee. A resolution to establish a Health Wellness and Quality of Life fund award and a motion to include work session minutes with voting session minutes also passed. A proclamation to honor Constable Ira Cox passed unanimously along with several items in the consent agenda.
The Bradley County Commission will hold its next voting session meeting on Jan. 7 at 7 p.m.