KEEPING OUR CHILDREN SAFE.
Caddo, Bossier schools work to better security in response to Parkland shooting
Are our children safe when they go to school? When parents drop their kids off at school in the morning, they want to know they will be safe. But this question isn’t just on the minds of parents. It is on everyone’s mind as school shootings have become a more common occurrence. The most recent school shooting took place on Feb.
14 when 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. The shooting has left everyone wondering: How can we keep our children safe in Caddo and Bossier Parish?
One strategy is to employ more School Resource Officers (SROs). Bossier Parish has already taken this strategy one step further. In fact, Bossier Parish is one of only two parishes in the state of Louisiana that has a school resource officer assigned to every school from elementary to high school. Airline High is even assigned two SROs due to the large student population.
Lt. Adam Johnson, director of security for Bossier schools, says these SROs receive extensive training to be prepared for different kinds of crises, including an active shooter. The state of Louisiana requires schools to complete emergency preparedness drills. Bossier Parish requires each school to complete at least two emergency preparedness drills per year. These drills can include a lockdown, evacuation and sometimes a reverse evacuation. They do not include fire drills, which are conducted separately.
“We take security very seriously in Bossier Parish. Every school in the parish has a crisis plan,” Johnson said. “They are all site specific and very detailed. We drill on those crisis situations, whether it be an active shooting situation, lockdown procedure, etc. Every time we do these drills, it’s a very significant, detailed process. It takes a lot of time. We want to make sure that these schools have their plans evaluated. Everyone is pretty in tune with how we do things.”
Caddo Parish has similar security protocols. They employ security officers at every school and police officers at about 43 of their schools. Caddo mandates that each school complete at least three drills per year. People on the crisis response team are assigned different roles during the drill. Roy Murry, director of security for Caddo schools, says there is no one thing that can keep a school safe. That’s why they work with the Caddo Sheriff’s Office and a Homeland Security team to create crisis management plans.
These plans are constantly changing according to how the drills for each school go. The plan consists of basically the same things, but they are adapted based on what school they are for. The goal is to make sure schools are best prepared for whatever situation may arise.
“What we have to look at is every situation that goes on in the country,” Murry said. “Then we have to review our plans based upon the incident that happened to see how it occurred and what we can put in place to prevent it or manage the crisis based on our crisis response plan.”
Both Bossier and Caddo schools stress the importance of staying in communication with parents in the event of an emergency. Johnson wants to keep parents in the loop when an emergency or a drill is taking place at the school.
They use a system call “Illuminate,” which sends out mass text messages to parents alerting them when a drill or an emergency takes place. They can relay messages to keep them updated on a situation. Johnson says it helps things run more smoothly so they don’t have parents rushing to the school, and it also puts parents at ease.
In addition to working with parents, Johnson says Bossier schools also work hand-in-hand with the Bossier Sheriff’s Office. Bossier Sheriff Julian Whittington says they’re devoted to making the safety of children their top priority. He says having a fully trained Bossier Sheriff’s Office deputy assigned to every one of the school campuses in Bossier is a reflection of that commitment.
“Our SROs continually train throughout the year to be proactive in keeping our schools safe, but they also build relationships with these students as they walk the hallways, visit in the cafeterias and attend ball games and school functions,” Whittington said. “While the schools continually train on fire and tornado drills, the reality is that the world we live in now dictates we also conduct active shooter drills and lockdown drills to keep students and faculty safety, and that’s what we do here in Bossier Parish.
“Having a trained deputy on campus with a marked patrol unit out in front of a school, having SROs build relationships with the students and faculty, and having support from parents and the community goes a long way in keeping Bossier Parish schools safe. Our children are counting on us.”
The Caddo Sheriff’s Office assists with security assessments at many public and private schools. Caddo Sheriff Steve Prator says their Special Response Team trains regularly for an active shooter response. Their mission is to remain a force in readiness and respond to stop the shooter and to minimize the loss of life during an active shooter event.
"We take security very seriously in Bossier Parish.
Every school in the parish has a crisis plan.”
– Lt. Adam Johnson, Bossier schools director of security
“It used to be unthinkable that someone would arm themselves and come into our schools to intentionally hurt our kids,” Prator said. “Now it seems it happens on an all-too-regular basis. So it’s important – it’s critical – that we are all prepared. This applies to students, administrators and law enforcement.”
Both Bossier and Caddo acknowledge how technology has impacted the way they approach security at the schools. Johnson says technology is constantly changing, and it is a valuable resource when it comes to monitoring school safety. He encourages students and parents to report threats they may see on social media.
“Our community has been very good about that,” Johnson said. “When they see something concerning on social media, I get phone calls regularly on weekends saying, ‘Hey, I want to forward this to you. I saw it on my son’s snapchat.’ The communication is the big thing because then we react immediately. If we see some kind of threat immediately, we go into action.”
For Caddo schools, Murry also tells students if they see something, then they should say something.
“We ask that every child have some adult that they feel comfortable going to. That’s what we’re working towards with every school. They need to tell a responsible adult whether that be a teacher, resource officer or an administrator. They need to make sure they tell an adult if they have a concern with school safety.”
With the increase of danger at schools around the U.S., it’s easy to feel pressure when you’re the director of security. Johnson is also a lieutenant with the Bossier Sheriff’s Office. This is his second year as the director of security, and he says he feels that pressure at times, but he tries to focus on how he can better the safety of students at Bossier schools.
Recently, Johnson went through every considered school shooting in the United States since 1995 and read every synopsis just to make sure Bossier is up to speed. To Johnson, it is important to constantly evaluate things so they can gain more knowledge.
“I’m extremely proud of the SRO’s in our parish,” Johnson said. “I’m proud of this program and the way that we do things in Bossier Parish. The shootings have caused concern just like anything. Each one of them are individualized. Do we learn from every one of them? Absolutely. Are they studied? Absolutely.”
Some parents might wonder how effective SROs really are, especially when it was reported that the officer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High stayed outside the school during the Parkland shooting. According to an article by CNN, the armed officer did not enter the school because he believed the shooting was coming from outside the school buildings. However, when it comes to Bossier Parish schools, Johnson says he has confidence that his trained officers would step up to the plate if need be.
“I don’t know how they conduct their training in Parkland, but I do know what we do in Bossier Parish. Every single deputy is trained to handle their business when it comes to that tragic day.
You can’t know the future or how things are going to unfold; however, do I have the utmost confidence in our deputies? Absolutely.”
While nobody can know what the future may hold for Caddo and Bossier schools, Johnson says he is dedicated to making sure they are as prepared as possible. He wants kids to be able to go to school and learn without worrying about their safety.
“I love the fact that I get to make a difference in the community,” Johnson said. “My ultimate goal is to make sure the parents know their kids can go to school and be safe doing so.”