PORT ALLEN — The West Baton Rouge Parish School Board needs to act now to step up security and safety at the district’s 10 schools while awaiting more comprehensive plans, board member Mike Maranto said Wednesday night.
Maranto told other board members the school district should start using metal detectors and locking down campuses as a means of deterring potential trespassers and preventing students from bringing concealed weapons to school.
Maranto cited the Feb. 1 incident at Port Allen High School in which a student was arrested and booked on gun possession counts for allegedly bringing a sawed-off shotgun on campus.
“We have metal detectors at all the schools, why not use them?” Maranto wanted to know. “We’re just in a changing world. This is a need. We need to move forward. Our metal detectors are collecting dust.”
Some West Baton Rouge Parish Schools still lack fencing to fend off trespassers, Maranto said. He based his statements on his observations during the board’s tour of the district’s 10 campuses on Saturday.
“I know we’ve got something going on, but we need to start moving today,” he said.
Maranto reminded the board members of their recent decision to permit Schools Superintendent David Corona to meet with the West Baton Rouge Crisis Response Team commander.
Corona and the team have been charged with reviewing the school district’s emergency plans and developing individual crisis management strategies for each campus.
While a board majority seemed receptive to Maranto’s call for tightening campus security, several also said they would rather wait for the crisis team’s report before starting to spend money on additional safety measures.
“The board will improve safety at the schools,” board member Toby Sarradet said. “We just don’t need to throw money at what we think are the problems. I’d rather have a security expert come in and tell us how to spend our money wisely. Besides, do we have the means to run every student through metal detectors? Right now, I don’t think we can do that.”
Board member Craig Sarradet added he’d rather see safety suggestions recommended to the board by school principals, based on their keen insight on the safety needs of their individual campuses.
“Things work better when it comes from the bottom to the top,” Craig Sarradet said.
School Board members decided unanimously to defer any action on Maranto’s requests until after they get to see the Crisis Response Team’s report.