PINE BLUFF, Ark. – Following the shooting at Watson Chapel Junior High, district leaders are giving more information into the protocols and security measures that are in place and how the district is responding going forward.
It’s a situation Watson Chapel Superintendent Jerry Guess made sure his staff was prepared for but hoped they would never have to use.
“We even simulate an intruder to the extent that we have sounds like gunshots,” Guess said.
On Monday, that simulation became a reality when a 15-year-old student shot another 15-year-old boy in the Watson Chapel Junior High hallway.
“It’s one thing to read these things that happened somewhere else. It’s another thing to walk in the building and look down the hall and see the body of a young teenager who’s been shot,” Guess said.
Guess said the school principal immediately announced a code black which is an active shooter lockdown. From there, teachers followed their training by locking classroom doors and turning off the lights.
“And put students in locations in the classroom where they would be the safest,” Guess said.
According to Guess, there is a Jefferson County Sheriff’s deputy assigned to the district and an armed security guard that patrols the campus. They were not in the middle school at the time of the shooting but did respond. Police officers also came in and swept the building to find no additional threats.
“We responded well. We handled this situation in a good way,” Guess said.
Guess said what happened inside the school is something he will never forget.
“When I arrived to see the nurse on her knees administering CPR to a student in the hall the reality in the moment was difficult to describe,” Guess said.
Now, he is looking at what extra steps the district can take going forward.
“If we had walk through metal detectors perhaps, we would’ve detected the gun,” Guess said.
He does believe if there is a will there is a way.
“If someone is so dedicated to commit such a violent act, they may think of a way to do it that we have not attempted to prevent,” Guess said.
Even still, he wants to make it as difficult as possible for anyone to harm his staff or students.
“We hope we can do something to pre-empt it from ever happening again,” Guess said.
Watson Chapel will be virtual on Tuesday. Guess said there will be added security the rest of the week. There will also be extra counselors and chaplains to help students and staff.