Knox County Schools safety & security protocols change almost daily, officials say

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KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) – There’s been at least 15 school shootings across the country so far in 2019, according to CNN.

In East Tennessee, a Cumberland County school resource officer stopped an alleged planned school shooting in April.

On Thursday, three schools in Knox County were put on a soft lockdown due to a threat made on social media the night before.

Knox County Schools security director weighs in

Anytime there is a school shooting or violent incident on a school campus across the country, Gus Paidousis, the Knox County Schools security director, said the first thought that comes to him is what a shame children can’t go to school and feel safe.

Paidousis’ second thought: What can we do better?

“As tragic as our school shootings are, maybe the one thing that we can take away from each one of them is we typically learn a lesson,” Paidousis said. 

He’s been working with Knox County schools for about six years. He said security protocols change almost daily.

Current security measures in place at local schools

Currently, every Knox County school has security cameras, secured entrances, school resource officers, a fencing system, a close relationship with local law enforcement, plus, teachers and students are trained for responses – all this to make sure the schools are as safe as possible.

Paidousis said every school practices some type of safety drill at least 15 times per school year.

He also said that schools practice what’s called an “active shooter drill” with local law enforcement at least once a year.

Paidousis said that not only do security protocols change, but also, new security tools are always coming out.

He said the Knox County Board of Education is very supportive when it comes to purchasing new safety technology, and that the budget is very healthy, but he can’t always ask for new products.

“Our challenge is to just continue to be sure we utilize our money the best way that we can and that we make good decisions about staffing and training and the vendor products that are out there,” Paidousis said.

Another school shooting across the country prompts a re-examination here

There was a school shooting in Colorado on Tuesday, and Paidousis said it made for another look at security protocols.

“Just this morning we had a conversation with our law enforcement officers about, are there some things that we can learn from Colorado even though the information is still pretty fresh,” Paidousis explained.

Social media, cellphone use play a role

In the era of social media, school security also includes monitoring social media for any potential threats and taking every online threat seriously, Paidousis said.

Notifying parents is another part of security protocol.

Paidousis said they try to alert parents as soon as possible if students’ safety was impacted in any way.

“One of the first conversations we have is what do we push out to the parents and when do we push it out,” Paidousis said.

He said, though, that sometimes it’s hard to notify parents before they find out from someone else because students tell them first via their cellphones. 

Knox County school officials are looking into that policy as well, to determine if students should keep their phones off or not. Some parents expressed they want their students to keep their cell phones on in case of school emergencies. 

The Knox County Board of Education has tabled discussion of the policy for a later date.

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