Jackson County Superintendent of Schools Larry Moore is not taking lightly the recent events in south Florida with the school shooting. The news was scarcely out when he put the gears in motion to set up a round table between local law enforcement, school personnel, and PAEC. Tuesday morning, the group met at the Jackson County School Board office in a round table discussion. Present for the meeting was Cottondale police chief William Watford, Graceville assistant police chief Rob Burks, Marianna police chief Hayes Baggett and officer Tyler Scarborough, Jackson County Sheriff’s officers Kevin Arnold, Virgil Watson, Jeff Fowler, PAEC Assistant Risk Manager Bryan Johnson, PAEC Executive Director John Selover, PAEC Risk Manager Pat McDaniel, school board member and probation officer Stacey Goodson, deputy superintendent Cheryl McDaniel, Director of Transportation, Risk Management and Safety Director Petey Sims, and Moore. Also present was WMBB-TV Channel 13’s Ashton Williams and Shelia Mader from the TIMES.
Moore opened the meeting thanking everyone for taking the time to come and advised everyone that school board member Dr. Terry Nichols was in Tallahassee with the same mindset as our local roundtable, except at the state level. Moore asked for input from those there, said he wanted to get everyone’s input into what can be done in Jackson County. Moore said, “It’s coincidental that the governor has called a group together in Tallahassee today. I didn’t know that when I invited ya’ll here but Dr. Nichols, our current school board chairman is over there this morning. I know a lot of different things are being talked about as far as appropriations for school safety and for mental health issues.”
Moore then asked, “What do you see as our main concerns from a school safety point? That is top priority. That is not just lip service, that’s top priority.”
Watford from Cottondale Police Department, “The majority of our schools are wide open and access to the schools is quite easy. That would be my main concern is how to keep people out. For instance, in Cottondale you walk into the front door and the office is over to the side. The person in the front office has no control of who comes in and out. So, control and access are a big priority. If you can kind of control that, you can eliminate some of our problems. But like I said, some of our schools are pretty old so it’s hard to get a handle on it.
Graceville is the same way. At the high school, you have several buildings that students have to go in and out of when changing classes. It’s hard to control a threat when you don’t know which direction it is coming from.”
Moore interjected, “It’s hard to control school campuses with limited access is a top priority.”
Marianna chief Hayes Baggett said, “I don’t think you want to take your kid and drop him off at a facility that looks like a correctional institution but have everyone meeting somebody when they come on that property. At Marianna High School, you come in that main door, you hang a right and you got free access, hang a left and you go to the office. There’s signs telling you to go to the office. But if they were met by somebody, I’m not saying a school resource officer, but if they were greeted by a person when they come through that door, that would help. A person can tell if someone has mental health issues, or if they’re carrying and concealing something, things you learn.”
The discussion continued throughout the morning with input from both law enforcement and school officials. Discussions were held about the two recent incidents in Jackson County at Sneads High School and Cottondale High School. Deputy Superintendent Cheryl McDaniel said Wednesday morning, “In reference to the Cottondale High incident, it was a threat toward an individual student, not the school, made via social media. Once school administrators and law enforcement became aware of the post, it was handled swiftly by law enforcement. The student was not on campus after the post was made. The incident at Sneads High did not involve a direct threat toward students or the school but the post contained inappropriate images that were perceived by someone who reported it as a threat. Once it was reported to the school, the principal called law enforcement who came and investigated and determined there was no threat. The school was never in a lockdown and students were not in danger, however, the post did cause a disruption to the school as rumors, many not factual, began spreading about what occurred and parents became alarmed. The District is planning to speak to principals about planning to hold assemblies to educate the students of Jackson County about the importance of what they post on social media as well as respect for their fellow students. The District says students need to understand that inappropriate posts can lead to criminal charges. They would also like to encourage parents to monitor their child’s social media.”
Meetings are planned in the future to educate the students of Jackson County about the importance of what they post on social media as well as respect for their fellow students.