Warrick high schools hosting safety nights

Brad Schneider, Warrick school superintendent

The Warrick County School Board has decided to host three safety awareness nights for parents next week to help them better understand protocols and terminology.

According to board officials, it's in response to confusion surrounding a lockout that occurred earlier this year at Castle South and Castle North middle schools. The lockout was prompted by a school shooting threat that surfaced on Snapchat, which was later determined to be for a school district in another state.

The school safety awareness nights will be hosted at 6 p.m. on Tuesday in the community room at Castle High School; 6 p.m. on Wednesday in the auditorium at Boonville High School; and 6 p.m. on Thursday in the auditorium at Tecumseh High School, where topics such as the standard response protocol, lockdowns, lockouts, evacuations, shelter and reunification will be discussed by Tad Powless, the director of human resources.

Warrick County Schools Superintendent Brad Schneider said school safety has been an increased priority due to the recent "rash of school violence over the last several years."

"We just felt that it was important for us to communicate to the parents our standard response protocol and the language we use, which is very important," he said. "So when they hear, 'were on a lockout' or a 'lockdown,' they know the difference and the rationale behind each of those different actions."

Although they hosted similar

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safety nights in the beginning of last year, Schneider said attendance was light.

This year, however, school officials decided to publicize and put more emphasis on the awareness nights after last year's social media scare.

The Snapchat threat and lockouts occurred on Feb. 19, just a few days after the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which took the lives of 17 people.

"We had the preventative lockouts at the middle schools due to a threat that wasn't specific to those schools and turned out it wasn't even a threat to our school corp.," Schneider said, "but we didn't have a very good response to that."

What added fuel to the fire was that many parents found out about the lockout on social media, instead of from the school corporation.

"Anytime you go through something like that, you sit back and evaluate -- critique yourself," Schneider said. "There are definitely some things we learned from there that we need to do better. Part of that is communicating with our parents and making sure they understand what a lockout means."

Schneider said any time there is any kind of school threat it is fully investigated.

"These actions, such as a lockout or lock down, are simply additional safety precautions we take," he said, "until we can either confirm or eliminate the threat that was made."

Schneider said if there is another threat like this past spring, parents won't be able to just drive to the school to pick their kid up, which he said only added to the chaos in February.

"Local law enforcement would set up a safety area that is several blocks away from the school," he said. "We're going to educate them on why the worst thing they can do is run to the school and pick up their child."

Schneider said having the parents rush to the school only puts them in danger as well.

"I mean last spring, when we went through that, fortunately, it ended up being a good day," he said, "because all of the kids were safe and delivered home safe so on that standpoint, it was a successful day."

If a situation like that happened again, Schneider said a reunification area would be set up by police.

"If there ever were an active shooter on the school's campus, law enforcement is gonna come in and keep the public from getting into the school," he said. "Parents are not gonna be allowed to get to the school. The reunification site will be set up and there will be an entire process we'd go through to make sure we are getting students home with the correct parents."

Overall, Schneider said keeping the students in the Warrick County school systems safe is the school corps.' number one job.

"It's just getting harder and harder to do every year," he said.

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