Middlesboro Independent discusses school safety

Published 4:42 pm Thursday, August 25, 2022



Students attend school five days every week, with hours of extracurriculars each day, 36 weeks per year, and school safety is essential. For many students a positive academic environment is increasingly harder to obtain. Real or perceived, one reason for this is a lack of safety. Whether it be inside the classroom or out.

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Unfavorable situations at home, psychological stability, physical dangers and violence all contribute to this evident shortage. There have been investigations on how organizations, teachers and parents collaborate together in today’s society to influence the students’ understanding of safety in school.

School safety is essential so children can learn and experience a positive developmental trajectory, and the threat of a school shooter is a relatively new one but a very real one.

School shootings are a distinctly American phenomenon. According to the World Population Review, there have been 2,067 school shootings in the United States since 1970. Nearly a fifth of these incidents occurred between 2020 and 2022 when school shootings were at their 20-year peak. In 2020, there were 96 school shootings recorded; in 2021, that number more than doubled to 202.

According to Middlesboro Independent superintendent Waylon Allen, school safety consists of a network of school and community resources aimed at creating positive school environments, supporting student well-being, preventing school violence, and protecting the school community through effective security measures.

“Middlesboro Independent Schools are committed to safety and follow all practices prescribed by the Kentucky Center for School Safety,” Allen said. “Each school has a full-time special law-enforcement officer who (is) stationed at each school and carry side arms. These officers receive 40 hours of additional specialized training each year through The Department of Criminal Justice.”

Planning is not limited to on-site officers, Allen said. All MPD officers are prepared to respond in a moment’s notice.

“In the event of an emergency, the SROs notify Middlesboro Police who have access to each building, including layouts of each school and maps of their respective parking areas,” Allen said. “The Middlesboro Police Department frequently tour our schools and complete walk-throughs of each building. The Middlesboro Independent Schools are also fortunate to work with the Cumberland Gap National Park rangers, Bell County Emergency Medical Squad, and the Middlesboro Fire Department to ensure that we have a safe school environment.”

In addition to local agencies, buildings are frequently and randomly inspected by a compliance officer through the Office of the State School Security Marshal to ensure that all facilities meet the highest expectations for emergency and safety practices. Building doors are locked, and all visitors must be buzzed into a single entrance to the school. Procedures are in place for drug and weapon detection and staff are trained annually on responding to emergencies and reporting suspicious activity.

Most recently, Middlesboro Independent Schools was awarded the Students, Teachers and Officers Preventing School Violence grant from the U.S. Department of Justice that will provide Green Dot training and support to students and staff, adding an additional layer of school safety within the Middlesboro Independent district.

Green Dot is a nationally recognized violence prevention strategy focused on preventing power-based personal violence – sexual violence, intimate partner violence, child abuse, elder abuse, bullying and stalking. Green Dot invites everyone to reconsider their personal role in preventing violence and shifting social and cultural norms. Green Dot sees all community members as potential active bystanders and seeks to safely engage them in violence prevention by empowering them with the tools to do “green dots” – small, individual and manageable actions and behaviors that express intolerance for violence.

If you suspect suspicious activity, call the Tip Line provided by the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security at (866)-EYE-ONKY (866-393-6659) or look for the S.T.O.P.! Safety Tip Line logo on the Middlesboro Independent district webpage at mboro.kyschools.us.