School leaders make school security main topic of discussion

Published 8:23pm Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Students in the Selma City School System return to school Thursday where security measures seem to have been untouched over the two-week holiday vacation.

“[The board] has not met,” Selma City School Board President Henry Hicks Sr. said when asked if the school system added or improved any of the security measures during the students’ break. The lack of change is noteworthy because a loaded handgun was found in a student’s backpack at Selma High School Dec. 20, one day before the student’s holiday break began, and one week after the tragic school shootings in Newtown, Conn.

The school board will have a work session Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. in the Selma High School auditorium, and Hicks said safety measures will more than likely be at the top of the discussion.

“We did have one discussion [on safety measures] that was prior to the gun being found in the school,” Hicks said. “The principals met with [Selma City Schools’ Superintendent of Education Gerald] Shirley, myself and Dr. Chapatwalla were available at that meeting to just discuss safety issues, if there were any concerns or anything that we needed to look at in the schools, but then right after that they found the gun in the school.”

Hicks said the meeting was called the Monday after the school shootings in Connecticut, but noted, “the board has not met after that. I did mention to the board members that we were going to try to have a meeting, but that didn’t come to fruition, because it was so close to Christmas I guess.”

Hicks said during the initial in-house safety meeting school officials found things that needed to be re-evaluated and possibly upgraded.

“We found that there were some things that we really needed to look at, just to be on the safe side,” Hicks said. “I know there are some areas at some schools that have open windows, and we were discussing maybe looking at — I don’t even know if they make bullet proof glass that can withstand bullets now because of the type of guns that are used. Then we were looking at maybe enhancing the scanner piece — the walk through scanners rather than the hand scanners, but I’m not sure about that, but that was going to be a topic of discussion.”

The work session will be the first official meeting held since the gun was found on Selma High’s campus and Hicks said he plans to ask Shirley to invite Selma Chief of Police William T. Riley, as well as the head of the security system to attend, adding he expects a lot of questions regarding school safety will be asked.

“I think we will have a lot of questions being asked — how we’re going to try to combat this issue, how we’re going to try to come about making sure that we don’t get guns in the school again,” Hicks said. “The thing of it is — is there a way that we can completely keep guns out of the schools? That is a question that I don’t know if we can even say yea or nay to, because we can do everything that we possibly can and there still may be a way that a child or an adult could get a gun into the school. But we’re going to make sure that every avenue that we have to go to — we’ll take every precaution we can in doing so.”

Calls and messages left for Selma City Schools superintendent Gerald Shirley were not returned.

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