EBR parents hear school safety plans

Michelle Loftin was one of a handful of parents who showed up at Baton Rouge Magnet High School on Monday night to attend the first of five community forums in East Baton Rouge Parish aimed at helping improve school safety and security.

She wishes she had company.

“Until you have more parental involvement, children are going to get away with whatever they can get away with,” said Loftin, who has a child at Sherwood Middle Academic Magnet.

Like most places, the parish school system has been re-examining how it keeps children safe since the horrific murder in December of 26 people, 20 of them children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Herman Brister Sr., associate superintendent for instructional support services, shared the presenting duties Monday with Sandra Smith, coordinator of special support programs. They spoke to an audience of about 25 gathered in the recently renovated auditorium at Baton Rouge Magnet High.

The presentation was similar to one they gave the School Board on Feb. 7 and will be repeated at the next four planned forums.

Much of the presentation focused on a Web service the school system uses called Emergency Response Information Portal.

The school system uses this service based in Jefferson, Mo., to house and to update its school-level crisis management plans, to provide information and training to school employees, and to monitor whether schools are conducting required drills.

They noted that every school principal and some teachers have undergone two courses in what’s known as “incident command training,” where they learn how to deal with an incident and successfully hand the situation to a first responder.

The school system is still researching the cost and usefulness of steps other school districts have taken including permanent metal detectors, replacing older security cameras and adding new ones, installing buzz-in doors at school entrances and paying for school resource officers at every school.

Afterward, audience member John Daniel, who said he has gone through incident command training, complimented the presentation, saying it shows that the school system is using the latest technology and procedures in its safety planning.

Daniel, president and founder of Unity Day Youth and Family Zone, said the school system should have enough information about students to be able to predict which ones might go off in anger.

“You can assess the potential for something to trigger a problem,” he said.

Brister urged residents to share information about possible safety concerns.

“If we hear something Sunday night, we can be ready Monday morning,” Brister said.

The school system is holding forums Tuesday at Woodlawn Elementary and Wednesday at Scotlandville High. Next week, the district is holding two final forums at Northeast Elementary on Feb. 27 and at Forest Heights Community of Excellence on Feb. 28. All are scheduled to start at 6 p.m.