After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, parents and teachers are still on pins and needles. The topic hit much closer to home on Thursday when a 14-year-old student was injured after a classmate opened fire at Price Middle School in Atlanta.
Floyd County Police Chief Bill Shiflett spoke during last week’s Community and Schools Safety Summit and stressed that such shootings are nearly impossible to predict.
“What we’ve learned and what we know is that it can happen anywhere and at any time,” Shiflett said. “Floyd County is not immune from those who might want to harm our children. But we have a plan to prevent, and we have a plan to act.”
He said the FCPD was given a federal grant in 1998 that allowed the department to place four resource officers at Floyd County Schools.
“This allows the officers to go into the system, develop a relationship with teachers and with students,” he said. “Plus, it gave an extra safety net for the officers just to be in the school.”
Shiflett said that for more than 10 years, the police department has trained on how to respond to an active shooter in any situation.
“I will not discuss … any of our tactics for the safety of our children and our police officers,” he said. “But I feel we’re prepared to meet any challenge that comes before us.”
Floyd County Sheriff Tim Burkhalter reiterated Shiflett’s opening statement at the summit.
“(A school shooting) is one of those things you can’t predict,” he said. “You can’t predict the human element and what these people will do as much as we try.”
Upon perusing some more recent school shooting statistics, a good number of the student shooters were bullied, Burkhalter said. The county sheriff suggested that tackling bullying problems in schools might help to lessen the likelihood that armed students would snap on their classmates and teachers.
Floyd County Schools counselor Lisa Drake and former school system director of special education Bill Schoepski have been already been training Floyd County teachers on bullying prevention strategies, and have even taken the program to other local conferences in an effort to alert parents about how they can teach students to stomp out bullying. Click here to read about the recent Vision & Voice conference that included anti-bullying discussion.
Some parents at the recent Safety Summit were upset and concerned as to why there can’t be a resource officer at every single school. Burkhalter summed it up during his presentation.
“An officer at every school would be great,” he said. “We just don’t have the money to do it and you don’t have the money to give it.”
Floyd County Schools Superintendent Jeff McDaniel recalled the shock and confusion that plagued people during the Sandy Hook massacre.
“We will certainly not forget where we were that day (when we heard the news),” McDaniel said. And how the emotions ran all over the place, trying to just figure out what happened and why it happened.”
McDaniel said society has thrust the issue of school safety on the doorsteps of schools across the country.
“We need … the community to be our eyes and ears as we’re the watchdog during the school day over your children,” he said. “If you come across helpful information you can provide us to ensure the safety goes to higher levels.”