Shooting prompts DCS, DPD to review school security

The Demopolis City Schools Board of Education will take a closer look at the security of its campuses in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. last week.

Following an hour-long executive session Monday evening, the board voted on a pair of addendums intended to make the four campuses in the DCS system safer.

“Coming out of executive session tonight, the board has two addendums. One is to authorize me to talk with (Demopolis Police Department Chief Tommie) Reese about hiring an additional off-duty police officer to serve as a (school resource officer) for the balance of the school year,” Demopolis City Schools Superintendent Dr. Al Griffin said. “Also, we want to allow Chief Reese to plan and analyze and do a safety analysis of our facilities and report back to us in maybe 10 or 20 days about what he recommends to us.”

While Reese is far from completing his safety and security audit, he did note that he has already assigned an officer to each school in Demopolis on a temporary basis while he and DCS administrators determine the best methods of meeting the needs of each school.

“I don’t know how long this will last, but for now they are there,” Reese said of the officers. “This is to help students and families with regards to safety and security. I am deeply saddened by the mass shooting in Newtown. I thank the school board for being attentive. I appreciate them for giving me an ear.”

Without full knowledge of what will be needed at each school, Reese and Griffin are already aware that the greatest obstacle facing school system’s desire for security upgrades is financial in nature.
“Money is always going to be the No. 1 factor, but you can’t put a price on a life,” Reese said of the greatest challenge the system will likely face as it looks to guarantee its safety and security measures are as updated as possible. “The school board and the city are trying to avert something happening here in Demopolis. No plan is foolproof, but we’re trying to do all we can right now to be ahead of the curve. Safety is our utmost responsibility for the kids and also for the staff.”

Griffin noted that safety is the utmost priority for the school system and that, in a perfect world, DCS would have every security feature available.

“(If money were no object) we would have just a state-of-the-art, Rolls Royce camera and security system complete with swipes, an armed guard at each campus. That’s in a perfect world,” Griffin said. “Student safety has always been our No. 1 priority and we were already in the process of enhancing our safety plans to a virtual capacity. What happened Friday in Connecticut makes everybody revisit where they’re at and what they’re doing regarding student safety.”

DCS has previously taken a gradual approach to upgrading its security features. Plans have consisted of a number of measures, including the installation of additional fencing at Demopolis High School: a project that is in the system’s capital outlay plan.

“Dr. Griffin and I had been talking several weeks prior to this about the need to change a few things, but this has really accelerated it,” Reese said of preexisting dialogue between himself and Griffin regarding student safety. “I think the biggest thing is that we can’t get complacent and think that it won’t happen here or it can’t happen here.”