STILES SIMMONS: The Lake County School Safety Team

By Stiles Simmons

Special to the Star

The nation was rocked to its core in the aftermath of the school shooting that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. The K-12 educational community experienced a plethora of emotions ranging from anger to fear. We found it unbelievable that someone could unleash such violence in a place where young children and adults had come together to build brighter futures and to eventually make the world a better place. Needless to say, the incident put everyone on notice and compelled local school districts and communities to re-examine their security protocols and systems.

At the time, Baldwin Community Schools took action to upgrade our security procedures and systems. We invested approximately $40,000 to install new locking mechanisms, cameras and other protective devices to enhance the protection of our students and staff. We also worked with the local Sheriff's Department to improve communication and access to the schools. However, despite the efforts taken since the incident at Sandy Hook, we still have to do more to ensure the safety and security of students and staff, especially in light of recent incidents that have occurred at schools across the nation.

One of the most important steps we have taken to better protect students and staff has been the formation of the Lake County School Safety Team. Similar to what has been done in Mason County, we have joined with local first responders — Sheriff's Department, Emergency Management, 911 Dispatch, EMS and Yates Dial-A-Ride — to take a community approach to protecting our students and staff members. We have learned it's better to present a united front as opposed to working in isolation to plan for and respond to potential threats. Additionally, to expand on our efforts, we are planning to engage the entire community in future school safety projects to send the message that we care immensely about the safety and well-being of our children. When the time comes, I hope you will join us.