School board talks safety

Published 8:36 pm Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Public information officer Sarah Hodges talks to board members about safety Monday night.

Public information officer Sarah Hodges talks to board members about safety Monday night.


Twenty-six school shootings took place after the Sandy Hook school shooting, and five days ago, the first school shooting of 2014 took place at Liberty Technology Magnet High School in Jackson, Tenn., where one student was seriously wounded.

For Don Phipps, superintendent of Beaufort County Schools, working on keeping students and staff safe at school is a major priority.

“In light of things going on in this country, we’ve been doing quite a bit of work in the area of safety and security over the last few years,” said Phipps during the Beaufort County Board of Education’s meeting Monday. “Our local policy requires a minimum of one drill per semester. These are drills where we go into a situation as if an active threat were on campus. Schools are put on full lockdowns. ”

The glue that holds everything together in achieving school safety is collaboration between law enforcement and the community, said Phipps, adding that law-enforcement agencies in the county as well as neighboring counties have helped out.

Phipps said: “We have had law enforcement that have been very involved with us, including the sheriff’s department, the Washington Police Department and the Highway Patrol. We’ve had folks who are wildlife officers and a number of folks who represent law enforcement

“They (police) will walk through the hallways while we’re in the situation of lockdown, and we’re looking for areas of concern where people didn’t do what they should have done or we didn’t react quickly enough. We address breaches of safety that need to be looked at in terms of our protocol, and we go back and do some debriefing when the drill is over.”

Community policing is one area that was also discussed as a part of the plan to make Beaufort county schools safer.

“Our students see them and are able to build some commodore relationships. So, there is a community aspect to the policing work that they do when they’re helping,” said Phipps.

During the board’s meeting, Sarah Hodges, public information officer with Beaufort County Schools, discussed how smoothly things have gone when it comes to working with law-enforcement agencies.

“I’d like to point out is how much participation we get from our agencies,” said Hodges.

“Every law-enforcement officer in the state of North Carolina gets the same training when it comes to critical-response issues. This is why we brought in wildlife and all other sworn officers. It could be a wildlife officer who gets there first. This way, they know each other anyway. They come ready to do the same thing,” she said.

With more than $50,000 allocated to school safety in 2014, Phipps added that his goal is to ensure students and staff are instructed on how to respond to active shooter situations.

“The schools have been instructed and folks have been taught what to do when we go through these procedures. We don’t want to do something in reaction when something happens. We want to always be proactive and ready to do the right thing at the right time,” said Phipps.