030818 Schools: Reports rise with fears following Florida shooting
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Alan Walters with Michele Gay at last month’s school safety program.

Schools: Reports rise with fears following Florida shooting

By Emily Topper
Coastal Observer

A surge in reports of suspicious activity in the Georgetown County School District and schools across the state following last month’s Parkland, Fla., shooting has led parents to question the district’s safety and communication procedures.

Kelly Stuckey, the former director of safety and risk management for the district and current president of the Parent-Teacher Organization at Georgetown Middle, said she was alarmed when she heard that a gun was found at the school. The .38 caliber pistol was unloaded.

“You hear about school violence on the news, but you don’t expect for it to happen in our town,” Stuckey, who has two children in school, said. “I know the procedures that the district does have in place … but then even I started questioning why these precautions weren’t taken to ensure that there wasn’t any additional threat either the day it was found or the next day. Parents found out through the media, which I believe is what infuriated many parents.”

Alan Walters, the current director of safety and risk management, said parents are alerted when there is a credible threat. For situations that are unsubstantiated, notices may not be sent out.

“You’d get into doing that all the time if you tried to do that,” Walters said. “If there is something that we think they need to know as a parent, if there is a safety concern, we are going to let them know. But we don’t want to create anxiety where there shouldn’t be, and we also don’t want to give people ideas.”

At Georgetown Middle, the student who brought the gun was recommended for expulsion. “Just because they are recommended, that doesn’t mean that’s the final outcome,” Walters said. “They have a hearing and the facts of the case are reviewed, as well as the student’s prior discipline history and the grades.”

Besides expulsion, possible outcomes include suspension, placement in an alternative school, home-bound study or returning to school. Students who are recommended for expulsion could return to school the following year, or could be required to attend a different school.

While parents questioned why metal detectors weren’t used daily, Walters explained that the detectors – one of which costs $4,000 to $5,000 — were used on a random basis.

“It’s not every day at every school at every entrance, because that would take a degree of manpower that we don’t have,” he said. “We don’t announce our schedule. It’s truly random, and the principals have some degree in making those selections, as well. They have to use their staff, too.”

District officials and law enforcement are present at schools every time there is a threat, whether it’s determined to be unfounded or not. Police responded to Coastal Montessori Charter School last week after there were reports of “gun-shot-like” noises. The school went into a lockdown. It was discovered the sounds were from the tailgate of a dump truck at a nearby landscaper’s lot.

At Carvers Bay Middle School, a student reported last month that another student had threatened to “blow up the school.” The student who made the alleged comment was recommended for expulsion.

While Walters said there has “absolutely” been an increase in suspicious reports since the Florida shooting, he wants parents, teachers and students to remain aware and continue to report these activities.

“The sooner we can intervene, the better chance we have to prevent something from happening,” he said.

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