TUPELO – Lee County Schools took a magnifying glass to the district safety plan this week and will make several improvements to school security in the fall, with the hiring of eight individuals to the district security team and a new safety coordinator.
School board president Sherry Mask said each school will now have its own officer when, in the past, one officer was often shared between up to three different campuses. The school district will also hire a safety coordinator to oversee security efforts on Lee County campuses in the fall.
The four school resource new officers will be employees of the Lee County Sheriff’s Department and their salaries will be paid using monies provided to the sheriff’s department by the school district. The four new school safety officers will be district employees.
School board member Ronnie Bell said the district has already partnered with the Lee County Sheriff’s Department for a tip line which provides safety tips and a place to report suspicious activity.
Last fall, the district and sheriff’s department proposed a plan to split the cost for six new officers between the two departments, but, in October, the board of supervisors rejected a proposal to put officers in schools in Shannon, Saltillo, Mooreville and Guntown.
Les Nichols, president of R.L. Nichols & Associates, a youth protection consultancy, was contracted by the school district last April to evaluate existing safety measures and make recommendations for improving the district’s safety plan.
Nichols said 40 percent of school fatalities are vehicular-related, the highest percentage of school fatalities, and said shooters will often choose schools with less challenging security measures in place.
“It is important to set up conditions where this is less likely to happen,” Nichols said.
District Superintendent Jimmy Weeks said the school district has a head start on several items recommended by Nichols, such as electronic door lock systems and upgraded camera systems.