Tuesday, Sep 02, 2014
Local News

School district and sheriff discuss security

Published:   |   Updated: March 12, 2013 at 05:09 PM

Improving and maximizing school security will be an ongoing effort of both the Highlands County School District and the Highlands County Sheriff's Office.

Representatives from the school district, sheriff's office and Sebring Police Department met Wednesday to discuss school security issues.

Sheriff Susan Benton offered the services of her office to help evaluate each school campus to create school-shooting response plans.

Both School Board Member Donna Howerton, who attended the meeting, and School Board Chairman Andy Tuck stressed that the district's expertise is in education, while the sheriff's office's area of expertise is security.

Tuck said, at Tuesday's school board meeting, he will likely ask for a security plan for each school from the sheriff's office that the district can implement.

Howerton said: "My recommendation to the board along with the superintendent is to allow them [sheriff's office] to make recommendations."

Both Howerton and Hill-Gustat Middle School Principal Christ Doty said the district is implementing standardization or a "common language" among the schools concerning safety and security announcements and procedures.

Howerton noted this will help with substitute teachers who work at more than one school or when a teacher transfers to another school.

Doty noted that the "common language" will be helpful if a student transfers from one school to another such as from Sebring Middle to Hill-Gustat Middle School.

"It creates a more consistent process that creates a good flow for students and a safer process for students that they can recognize immediately," he said.

Howerton said the information technology specialists with the district and sheriff's office discussed school security cameras.

The district has three or four schools with security cameras that are tied into the sheriff's department and some schools are requesting more cameras, she said.

During the board's recent school walk-through tours, it was noted that some schools needed additional fencing, which the board is looking into, Howerton said.

Superintendent Wally Cox will be setting up an executive committee that will attend future meetings with the sheriff's office, she said.

In a press release, Cox said: "I'd like to thank Sheriff Benton for spearheading this collaborative process. It's obvious that the primary concern of the sheriff's office is the same as that of the school board, the safety of our students and staff. We will schedule a meeting with the sheriff's core staff to plan for individual school site surveys."

Benton commented that "our get-together was extremely valuable; everyone was engaged and willing to put in the time necessary to ensure that we are all prepared to protect our kids should we be faced with such a serious event."

mvalero@highlandstoday.com (863) 386-5826

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