WBR School Board reviews security

In the wake of the recent school shooting in Newtown, Conn., West Baton Rouge Parish law enforcement officials offered insight Monday as to how the School Board could enhance security at its 10 campuses.

During the board’s Academic Committee meeting, members tasked Superintendent David Corona to meet with law enforcement representatives and review each campus’ emergency plan.

The meetings will also include thorough tours of each school to see if any security improvements could be made.

West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Maj. Jerome Fontenot stressed fortification of schools to prevent similar instances.

“One of the key things is to toughen up your schools,” said Fontenot, who heads the parish’s multiagency Crisis Response Team.

Because his team is not a full-time unit, Fontenot said, it could take up to 30 minutes to mobilize and respond to a school crisis situation.

Fontenot said the primary line of defense for each school is a vigilant faculty and staff.

Port Allen Police Chief Esdron Brown agreed, adding that teachers can see if students are showing signs of possibly acting out violently.

The crisis plan for each school must be flexible, Fontenot added, as no crisis situation is the same and conditions can change in an instant.

“You have to allow teachers to be able to think outside of the box,” he said.

Each school’s plan also differs based on its respective campus design, system Supervisor of Instruction and Child Welfare Charlotte Blanchard said.

While some board members suggested arming faculty or staff certified to carry concealed firearms, a retired teacher in the audience said he felt doing so was not the answer.

“We’re already teachers, nurses, parents and grandparents,” said Carnell Washington, president of the East Baton Rouge Federation of Teachers. “Teachers do not want to be the police officer in the classroom. It’s too much responsibility, and too many things can happen.”

Arming school faculty or staff would also require radical changes to state law and additional training efforts, Washington said.

Instead, Washington suggested that security measures such as breakout windows, automatic lockdown systems and metal detectors be installed at schools.

While such items can be expensive, he noted, federal dollars are available for assistance.

“It’s better to pay for security upfront than to have to pay for it on the back side with kids’ lives,” he said.