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Local Schools Continue To Strive For Safest Possible Environment For Students

Reported: Apr. 9, 2014 4:23 PM EDT
Updated: Apr. 10, 2014 9:45 AM EDT
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (Darrah Wilcox) -- As a mom of a kindergartner, Shannon Drown is automatically on guard when she hears about another school tragedy, like at a Pennsylvania High School Wednesday morning. "As parents, it's always scary to leave your child with someone else. You want to make sure they're safe. You want to feel comfortable with where they are, and having a child in school, normally, you feel comfortable, but when you hear about things like this, it goes through your head, well, 'what if that was my child, what if that was my baby?'," she said.

It's also scary for school administrators, who are constantly striving to have the safest schools possible. "I mean in our environment today, I think it's essential that safety is the first things we're concerned about for our students and our staff," said Cabell County Alternative School principal Brenda Scott.

At the alternative school, they even go a step further than the usual protocol, using a wand to check students daily with a metal detector. "Not to say that the students here are bad by any means. It's just an extra precautionary measure on our part," said Scott.

Assistant Superintendent for Cabell County Schools Todd Alexander said their protocol starts with prevention, including anti-bullying programs at an early age.

Next, they try to make it easy for students to report suspicious behaviors or bullying, through text messages or online. That service is available through the Talk About It program.

The school system also has contracts with mental health agencies, to help identify and treat potential issues.

"We have staff members looking constantly to see if there's any type of problem there, and if there is, they're referring them for help. That's the best thing that we can do to prevent this type of thing," he said. There are even some schools with mental health facilities right on the school grounds, so students don't have to leave for appointments.

They've also implemented a full threat assessment procedure that mirrors how the secret service treats a perceived threat.

While the school system has several safety options in place, parents like Shannon Drown, who's also a school counselor, says a safe environment starts at home. "We need to stay involved, find out what they're doing, who their friends are, where they're going. I know you don't want to be a helicopter parent, so to speak, but at the same time, if that's what it takes to get to know what's going on in your child's life, then that can stop something bad from happening, you know, down the road," she said.

Drown agreed that keeping tabs on the mental health of students should be key to possibly preventing more school tragedies. She said students should not only feel comfortable talking to their parents and peers about problems, but also someone like a school counselor or other mental health professional.



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