published Sunday, January 6th, 2013

Tennessee schools beefing up security

  • photo
    Johnny Cordell, director of Sequatchie County Schools
    Photo by Ben Benton /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Sequatchie County Schools leaders are looking to add an armed guard at the county's elementary school, redesign school entrances and reshape school drop-off and pick-up procedures for parents, all in the name of school safety.

Sequatchie is among many Tennessee school districts finding ways to amp up security in the wake of the December massacre at Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary in which 20 children and six adults were shot and killed.

The schools superintendent, Johnny Cordell, said he'll ask the school board this month to approve a contract with an outside firm to hire an armed guard for Griffith Elementary School; the middle and high school already have county school resource officers.

Starting Monday, parents at Griffith Elementary must display special passes on their windshields to drop off or pick up students in cars. Without a placard, parents will have to go inside the building and show credentials to pick up their children. The school also no longer will allow parents beyond the front lobby without prior approval.

Cordell said he's looking at redesigning entrances at all three county schools to add barriers between the front office/lobby area and the rest of the school.

Many of Sequatchie's classrooms have exterior doors, making the schools easy to escape from in an emergency. But that also means they're easier to enter.

"Our schools we're built for fire safety," Cordell said. "And that's in direct contradiction to homeland security."

He said he expects districts across the state and country to enact similar safety measures in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting.

"Unfortunately, you can't stop anybody from coming in, but you can train and try to minimize the impact," Cordell said.

Lori Cook said she supports placing an armed guard at Griffith Elementary, where her daughter attends kindergarten.

"I don't see anything wrong with it as long as they don't scare the children," she said. "You can see it as bad or you can see it as good. I've always seen it as protection."

Sequatchie isn't the only Tennessee school system considering beefed-up security.

Read more at the Tennessean.

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