By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
A shooter in a school is a worst-case scenario, but thanks to the Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Department, the teachers and administrators of the Oktibbeha County School District will be prepared should they ever have to deal with that situation.
“The police officers and deputy sheriffs of the state have the opportunity to train in case of an active shooter in the schools and how to handle that situation. The problem that we’ve seen is that we’re the only ones that know what to do; the teachers do not know what to do,” Chief Deputy Chadd Garnett said. “We’ve drawn up a program where we’re actually going to train the teachers that if this incident happens, they would know what to do and how to protect the children and assist law enforcement to make sure we get to the shooter as quickly as possible.”
Garnett and several deputies will go to each of the district’s four schools over the next few weeks to educate the teachers on how to handle an active shooter situation. Though the deputies will train the teachers on a number of tactics, the main thing the teachers will need to know, Garnett said, was how to remain calm and lock down their classrooms.
“It’s better to be prepared when it happens than saying, ‘We should have been prepared,’ when it happens,” he said. “There’s no set plan right now for an active shooter. They have fire drills and tornado drills, but they’d have no clue how to handle it. If they have the proper training then it won’t be as much of a panic, and that’s what we need them not to do. They need to know what we’re going to do, and we need to know what they’re going to do.”
The program will train the teachers and administrators on what to expect from 911 operators, law enforcement officers and the superintendent’s office.
Soon, deputies will have the opportunity to train for an active shooter situation in the county schools through a Homeland Security program.
“The teachers will be invited to come and watch, so they will know what we do,” Garnett said. “I want to involve the school to give them an opportunity to see the training, but I also want the deputies to be familiar with the layouts of the school — where the classrooms are, how to get into the rooms and that kind of stuff.”
The sheriff’s department has plans to become more involved with the county school system. A sheriff’s deputy stops by each school once a day, but the department would like to place a resource officer in the schools.
“We don’t want kids to think that every time they see us, it’s something bad,” Commander Andre Quinn said. “We want them to know that we’re here for them any time.”