Bell schools talk safety

Published 8:58 am Tuesday, February 20, 2018

It is a tragic reality that deadly shootings are trending in today’s culture. The number of these events that have happened over the past handful of years has stirred heated debate among the American people. This latest school shooting in Florida has reignited the debate yet again.

The Bell County School Board held a special-called meeting Monday evening to discuss the safety of their schools with the concerned parents and public. The turnout was larger than anticipated, and the meeting had to be moved to the auditorium of Bell High to accommodate everyone.

The board invited the principals of their schools to come and speak as well John Akers, executive director of the Kentucky Center for School Safety to field any questions parents had and to give an overview of school safety.

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“One of the most difficult things for me to tell people is that their schools are safe. They aren’t perfect, but they are safe,” said Akers.

A variety of topics was covered during the meeting, ranging from what parents can do at home to help their children to how school administration can be as up-to-date on the latest safety protocols as possible.

Akers, the board and the school principals relayed to the audience that actions have already been taken, and will continue to be taken to ensure the safety of the children while they are in school.

Every teacher and principal of a Bell County school has taken an active shooter training course organized by Sheriff Mitch Williams and the Kentucky State Police. That program will continue, and it will now involve substitute teachers.

Due to the nature of planning safety protocol, the details of of the plans could not be given as to safeguard the integrity of said protocol.

One of the biggest points of the night was expressing how important it is to get the children to speak up if they hear or see anything that could be concerning.

Akers noted the numerous methods children can take advantage of to report anything they feel to be troubling — whether it be bullying, violence or other risky behavior. Students can, of course, speak to a teacher or the principal face to face. They can submit a tip at a designated dropbox at the school and they can call in. All of these options aren’t the most ideal, however, as Aker pointed out, because children have a fear of being seen or labelled as a snitch or tattletale.

“What we came up with at the center is a free service we offer around the state — is our S.T.O.P. Tipline. It’s an online tipline,” said Akers.

The S.T.O.P. Tipline stands for Safety Tipline, Online Prevention and it is an email based line that each school district can provide for their students. If a student wants to report something, they access the tipline and an email is sent to teachers, principals, counselors and other personnel to be handled.