• 46°

Lions Club gets update on school safety

VALLEY — At Monday evening’s meeting of the Valley Lions Club, Valley High assistant principal Casey Chambley talked about a second hat he wears in school administration. He’s also the safety coordinator, something that’s more than an empty title. There’s a great deal of preparation these days that goes into being ready for any kind of emergency.

“School safety has made a significant turn since the early 2000s,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what your test scores are, what your enrollment is, how good your graduation rate is or how competitive your sports teams are, when momma and daddy put their child on the bus in the morning, and they don’t come home at the end of the day that’s the only thing that matters. It outweighs everything else.”

Chambley said that Chambers County residents should get past the mindset that this is a quaint, small system in a quaint small county and nothing bad could ever happen here. “People thought  ‘it can never happen here’ at Columbine and Parkland, too,” he said. “We cannot afford to become complacent in our training. We must be prepared for anything,” he said. “Because of social media, if something happens at 10:45, the whole county will know about it at 10:50. We learned that we needed to change our safety procedures and protocols.”

One change involves the lockdown of a school. It used to be that each school had its own procedure. It’s now uniform throughout the system.

“The only difference is the evacuation routes,” he said. “Every school has its own designated places to go.”

Chambley said he’s trying to educate the public on the language being used in school security.

“We have three levels of alert — heightened awareness, secure your area and lockdown,” he said.

“We have them color coded. On normal days when everything’s okay we are green. When we are on heightened awareness, we are on yellow. That could be something as mundane as a dog in the hallway or a weather-related event. There’s need for vigilance. Last week, for example, we released the students early because of the storm.”

Code orange is an alert to secure your area or perimeter.

“We secure the area, but everyday functions continue,” Chambley said. “Teachers still continue teaching in their classrooms. Something might be going on, and we want to figure out what it is without causing an alarm.”

The third stage – code red – is the most vital one.

“It’s assumed that a danger is in our face and someone is trying to harm us,” Chambley said. “We lock the building down and barricade us in our classrooms. We turn off the lights and hide from sight. The students are not released for any reason until the police get there and release them one by one.”

Chambley said there’s a big difference between securing your area and lockdown.

“We are trying to get the word out about what this means,” Chambley said. “I think we have come leaps and bounds from where we were. We can never be 100 percent safe. You can never totally stop evil but you have to be prepared for everything. Even if you fortify the school like a prison, people who are determined will still get in.”

Being able to barricade a classroom in a lockdown situation is important.

“According to the FBI, no one has ever been killed by an active shooter when they were in a barricaded classroom,” Chambley said.

Weather safety is very much a part of the school safety program.

“EMA is a great partner to us,” Chambley said. “We are in constant communication. The state has mandated us to have two storm drills each semester. We do adaptive mindset drills. We have conversations with the kids about what they should be doing. The kids are in the hallways during storm drills. If they are in an area that is well secured, they stay there.”