WHITE COUNTY, Ark. – Safety and security are at the top of everyone’s minds as students are back in the classroom this week. A couple of districts in White County worked with law enforcement, teachers and community members to make sure everyone felt safe coming back to class this year.
As a new school year rolls in, the Searcy School District is rolling out new security measures.
“We train for fire drills. We train for tornado drills and sadly now we have to train for situations such as this,” Searcy School District Superintendent Dr. Bobby Hart said.
Following the Uvalde school shooting, Dr. Hart and Assistant Superintendent Dean Stanley got together with the Searcy Police Department to create a plan.
“Our administrative team and our teachers know exactly what the police department is going to do in the case of an event and then and also, so our police department is aware of how we’ve been trained and how we’re going to react in a particular event,” Stanley said.
It’s not just putting that plan down on paper but putting it into practice.
“We’re only as good as our training. They’re entrusting us for the protection of their kids,” Searcy Police Sergeant Todd Dewitt said.
Sgt. Dewitt is one of six school resource officers, one for each campus, and along with a badge and a gun they now have an added layer of protection this year.
“Every school resource officer will have a ballistic shield,” Sgt. Dewitt said.
From one district to the next, the Beebe School District is also adding more security measures.
“From the board of education to the administration we are putting our resources, time and effort to ensuring that everyone on this campus feels safe,” Beebe Superintendent Dr. Chris Nail said.
Dr. Nail said over the summer they put a committee together to create their safety plan.
“We wanted to make sure our community had a voice,” Dr. Nail said.
Each campus has a threat assessment team made up of a mental health director, administrators, school resource officers, and teachers.
“If we have an incident come up and happen, we will have more than one person making a decision on is this a valid threat,” Dr. Nail said.
The district also purchased an app system where students can anonymously report threats or bullying.
“If someone doesn’t feel safe or they see something that’s going on, it gives us a chance to be more proactive and not reactive to events,” Dr. Nail said.
For those seeing students day in and day out, they are happy to be part of the conversation.
“A kid should not have to think about anything bad happening when they’re sitting in a classroom,” History Teacher Lindsay Sanders said.
She said she is already seeing and feeling a difference on campus.
“I think this year more than ever we are prepared,” Sanders said.
As both districts continue to make safety a priority, they just want parents to know they will do what it takes to keep their child protected.
“Thanks for trusting us and we want to live up to that trust,” Dr. Hart said.
Both districts are also hiring an outside company to perform a safety audit and train staff on what to do if something were to happen.