Back-to-school investigation analyzes safety, security - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Back-to-school investigation analyzes safety, security

The information is a lot to take in: Campus crime reports that point out the bad instead of so much of the good at Mid-South schools. (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5) The information is a lot to take in: Campus crime reports that point out the bad instead of so much of the good at Mid-South schools. (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)
Thousands of Mid-South students went back to school Monday. (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5) Thousands of Mid-South students went back to school Monday. (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)
(Photo Source: WMC Action News 5) (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)
(Photo Source: WMC Action News 5) (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)

(WMC) - Thousands of Mid-South students went back to school Monday, but the WMC Action News 5 Investigators started doing their homework weeks ago by studying the reports school districts make on safety and security.

The information is a lot to take in. Campus crime reports that point out the bad instead of so much of the good at Mid-South schools, but there is another school of thought, as one district spokesperson pointed out. The public wouldn't even know about these incidents if students hadn't been caught and disciplined.

Hayden Porter's biggest concern about third grade is finding the perfect backpack. Her mom's top priority? Hayden's safety at school.

"It should be everyone's number one concern, you know, it's right up there with the education," Porter said.

It's right up there with a list of fears many parents have about the start of a new school year.

"Gangs are a very big issue here in the [Memphis] city, and it's just all over in general," parent Farrah Baker said. "Tensions flare an attitudes arise and there you go. A desk being flung, somebody getting stabbed with a pencil, a teacher getting harmed."

Baker says things got so bad at Ridgeway Middle School, she refuses to let her daughter go back.

"Because of the violence that was there every day. She was coming home telling me about a fight," she said.

The Tennessee Department of Education doesn't track fights, but it requires schools report the most violent and disruptive offenses.

In their most recent report, released in March, there were five serious incidents reported at Ridgeway Middle, a low number compared to many Mid-South schools.

The state tracks possession of weapons and explosives and sexual or physical assaults on students and staff members along with bullying and attempted homicide.

Brittani Pegues' alma mater was worst in its district. Kirby High School reported 73 serious incidents.

"Kirby was a good school when I went there," she said.

Pegues works at the hair salon just a few yards away from the school. It's not uncommon to see trouble brewing among students outside her window.

"We see them trying to run away ... running with guns or run with stuff in their hands, that's just messed up," Pegues said.

Here are other schools with troubling numbers in the state's most recent report:

  • Woodale High with 60 offenses
  • 45 at Treadwell Middle School
  • 39 at Winridge Elementary

Drugs are a big concern in DeSoto County Schools. The data there is much more current:

  • 74 cases of drug possession last school year
  • 33 assaults
  • 105 fights
  • 20 weapons confiscated

"That's bad that you can't to school to get an education without being in fear of your life," parent Terry Slater said.

Slater's worst nightmare is a stranger getting into her daughter's school. Her daughter's greatest fear is being bullied by fellow classmates.

"She went to school uneasy every day," Slater said.

So did hundreds of kids in Arkansas schools.

State records show a staggering 410 cases of bullying in Craighead County classrooms last year; 330 students were bullied in Mississippi County schools and 80 in Crittenden County.

Perhaps numbers alone don't define school safety. Maybe they illustrate how diligently school districts are reacting to danger, but parents say statistics tell a story.

When it comes to safer schools, they prefer prevention, and they insist on transparency.

"I think most campuses should have more beefed up security," Baker said.

However you interpret the numbers, it's going to take everyone to keep schools safe this year.

Parents, teachers, staff, and especially you students. So if you see something, say something.


WMC Action News 5 posted the specific incident reports from every district that contributed to this story: http://www.wmcactionnews5.com/category/286358/school-incident-maps?clienttype=generic&mobilecgbypass.

Also, read the latest Tennessee school safety report here, http://ftpcontent4.worldnow.com/wmctv/TN%20safe_schools_report_2012-13%20(2).pdfand the DeSoto County 2013-2014 incident report here, http://ftpcontent4.worldnow.com/wmctv/2013-2014%20Incidents%20%20Report%20(1700)%20cnts%20DeSoto%20County%20REDACTED.pdf.


School surveys 

Also, in conjunction with our story on school security, we surveyed each municipal school district on some of the security measures that will be in place for the inaugural year. All of their answers are below verbatim.

Arlington Community Schools

1. How many resource officers will be present on each campus?

3 total for the district – 2 assigned to Arlington High and 1 to Arlington Middle. The three officers will offer support to the elementary schools as needed and requested by the principals.

2. Are those officers from a private security company or a local law enforcement agency?

Shelby County Sheriff's Office

3. Will metal detectors be used at any schools?

The middle and high school have hand held metal detectors to use as needed.

4. What is the entry security system for visitors at each school?

All four schools are locked and visitors will have to be "buzzed" in from the main office.

5. Will there be safety drills (such as active shooter/fire).

Yes

6. How will you notify parents of dangerous situations at school (notes sent home with students/email/texts)?

Multiple methods will be used depending on the situation. Methods available include: Blackboard Connect (which is a calling and texting system to enrolled students' parents), letters, emails.

7. Are you using any security techniques that are unique, perhaps through new technology or creativity?

No

Bartlett City Schools

1. How many resource officers will be present on each campus?

District Officer Working with Elementary Schools, 2 at the High School and 1 at each Middle School

2. Are those officers from a private security company or a local law enforcement agency?

Local

3. Will metal detectors be used at any schools?

Random

4. What is the entry security system for visitors at each school?

Badge access for all schools plus Raptor – Sex Offender Registry

5. Will there be safety drills (such as active shooter/fire)

Yes

6. How will you notify parents of dangerous situations at school (notes sent home with students/email/texts)?

Rapid Notice Calling System

7. Are you using any security techniques that are unique, perhaps through new technology or creativity?

Cameras plus will partner with the City of Bartlett Law Enforcement

Collierville Schools

1. How many resource officers will be present on each campus?

Collierville Schools has 5 elementary schools, 2 middle schools, and 1 high school. Each elementary and middle school has 1 School Resource Officer. The high school has 2 School Resource Officers.

2. Are those officers from a private security company or a local law enforcement agency?

The School Resource Officers are local law enforcement.

3. Will metal detectors be used at any schools?

Collierville Schools has metal detectors. The schools will utilize those devices as needed.

4. What is the entry security system for visitors at each school?

Each schools entry point is monitored by Access Control. The entry point is locked. In order to gain access, a visitor must push the entry button and stand in front of a camera. School personnel see the visitor from the main office and can allow entry once the visitor states their business. If the visitor is going to visit a classroom or be allowed to move anywhere in the building, they must submit their state issued identification. This identification is then run through the Raptor System. This system checks for sex offenders.

5. Will there be safety drills (such as intruder/fire)

Each Collierville School is required to conduct one fire exit drill every month. Two fire exit drills must be conducted during the first 15 days of the school year. In addition, safety drills not requiring full evacuation of all persons must be conducted a minimum of 3 times during the school year. These drills include intruder alert (lock down), tornado, earthquake, etc. A report of each drill is maintained by the principal.

6. How will you notify parents of dangerous situations at school (notes sent home with students/emails/texts)?

Collierville Schools will use the Blackboard Connect System as a rapid notice to contact parents and staff. Students can use this system to text alerts to the district about safety concerns such as bullying.

7. Are you using any security techniques that are unique, perhaps through new technology or training?

School Resource Officers are participating in Active Shooter Training. This training is being provided by law enforcement.

Germantown Municipal School District

Did not respond in time for our report

Lakeland School System

1. How many resource officers will be present on each campus?

We will not have resource offices assigned to Lakeland Elementary School. We will contact Shelby County Sheriff's deputies if we need for police presence.

2 Will metal detectors be used at any schools?

We do not plan to use metal detectors at this time.

3. What is the entry security system for visitors at each school?

We will use an Andover card access system for employees, and visitors will be required to "buzz in" to enter the building. We will also scan the drivers licenses of visitors to cross check a sex offender database.

4. Will there be safety drills (such as active shooter/fire)

We will continue to have state-required and recommended drills including fire, earthquake, tornado, and intruder drills.

5. How will you notify parents of dangerous situations at school (notes sent home with students/email/texts)?

We will use the traditional notes home as well as the Blackboard Connect phone/text notification system. If appropriate, we will also use social media (Twitter, Facebook).

6. Are you using any security techniques that are unique, perhaps through new technology or creativity?

We plan to send one of our administrators to a five-day training to be trained as a School Safety Specialist. This is made possible through a grant through the TN Department of Education.

Millington Municipal Schools

The superintendent of Millington Municipal Schools respectfully declined to provide the information that we requested.

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