Carroll County Schools and the Carroll County Sheriff’s Department held their sixth annual safety summit Friday morning at the Carroll County Ag Center, bringing together school administrators and first responders.
Approximately 250 school administrators representing all of the schools in the county and first responders were in attendance to discuss methods of keeping students safe.
Attorney Cynthia Daley and Maj. Craig Dodson of the Sheriff’s Office led the session by discussing the timeline of events that occurred during the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, in February that left 17 dead and 17 others injured.
Carroll County Sheriff Terry Langley said the sheriff’s department was going to each school to meet with their safety team about their individual safety plans and added the department worked with the school system and decided to put a summit together to get all officials in the same room to talk about school safety.
Since the first summit, Langley said the event has expanded to include private businesses and investigator firms.
“We found everybody had a different safety plan so we put this together with all of the public safety, the school board and Mr. Cowart [Scott Cowart, superintendent of Carroll County Schools] and it’s been great to get everybody in one room to work on these scenarios where everyone has a solid safety plan and also a plan on what to do in the event of some of the scenarios we come up with,” Langley said. “The number one priority, obviously, is to keep our schools as safe as humanly possible and we want everyone to know that all of those agencies involved will do everything they can to keep our schools safe. What’s worse than having something happen is to have something happen and not be prepared.”
Daley told safety teams to have conversations with their schools about what to do in the event of an active shooter coming on campus.
“Make sure you as safety teams have conversations about what the expectations are with schools prior to the school year and do lockdown drills once a month,” she said. “We do that because it’s muscle memory.”
Terry Jones, assistant superintendent with Carroll County Schools, said schools have to identify their safety plans and set aside time to implement those plans.
“It’s important for schools to not only have safety plans and procedures identified at their schools but also have the time to filter that information down through their faculty and staff,” Jones said. “This gives each safety team from each school the opportunity to talk about that and get their plan together to filter it down to their staff so that we can ensure all of our staff members are informed and know what to do in case of an emergency.”
Villa Rica Middle School Principal Mitch Springer said the summit allows him to disperse the information he has learned to members of his staff before the school year.
“It’s very important to have a formalized plan that we can share with our teachers, staff and parents,” Springer said. “Being on the same page is the most important thing and the parents’ main concern is if their children safe when they come to school. Having something like this is important for Carroll County Schools as well as having a relationship with law enforcement, the EMTs and 911 to make sure our kids are safe and that we’re all on the same page.”
Jones said this is a “unique opportunity” for schools to work one-on-one with first responders to collaborate on what to do when implement school safety procedures.
“This gives us the unique opportunity to work directly with the first responders that will be reacting to the schools when there is an emergency situation and this is rare that the school system gets to work directly with the first responders ahead of something actually taking place,” he said. “It’s a very valuable scenario for all of them. For this to become second nature to them, there has to be two things involved including time to work and discuss the plan and we have to practice that plan.”
Langley said school shootings can happen anywhere and it is best for the system to be prepared in the event of a real situation involving an active shooter.
“That’s the reality to these scenarios where you see all of these things on television, and it can happen anywhere and it can happen here,” Langley said. “We just want to be prepared and maybe we can head off something that happens here. It can happen anywhere no matter how big or small the community is.”