by Malcolm Butler
Ruston High School’s main campus has more than 35 exterior doors.
And according to Lincoln Parish School Board child welfare and attendance officer Tim Nutt, that is one example of why it takes a team mentality to make sure that the campus is secure.
These days security is an on-going focus at elementary schools, middle schools and high schools all around the country, and Lincoln Parish is no different. Despite the fact that Lincoln Parish has a low crime rate and is a highly-educated area of our state and region, there is always a threat of a threat.
And preparation and awareness is a key.
Nutt said controlling access and proper identification is a focus for all of the parish schools during the 2022-23 school year.
“Dating back some years, there was a big push to provide more security to our campuses in terms of access,” said Nutt. “That’s a big issue. The access. Can we control who is coming in, when they are coming in and how they are coming in.
“There is going to be a big emphasis before school starts on people wearing proper identification when they come on campus. No assumptions. That’s school board staff, maintenance staff, transportation staff, custodians … so everyone can be properly identified.
“Most of our campuses now have a mechanism where you buzz and the person operating the front … you are on camera. There is audio and you identify yourself and what your business is. You are essentially being vetted somewhat.”
One of the biggest pieces of the safety puzzle involves the Lincoln Parish Student Resource Officers, with each and every school in Lincoln Parish having one full-time RSO (Ruston High School having two).
“In the audits that I did on the campuses, we had conversations about what is going to be the headquarters for the SRO at each school,” said Nutt. “Where is he going to be. Our SRO’s are really good about being available at the most vulnerable times: arrival, dismissal and lunch time. Those are the times when you need to be on your toes and people need to be out and about. Emergencies can happen at any time. We need to know what to do not only when the kids are in class, but what about if they are in the cafeteria?”
However, the SRO’s can’t be everywhere at one time. Thus, Nutt said all faculty and staff have to stay aware and be able to do what is needed to help if a threat presents itself. Nutt cited a shooting that occurred close to the Simsboro campus a few years ago during a routine traffic stop.
“There were 150 students in the cafeteria only 75 yards from where there was an officer involved shooting.” said Nutt. “Basically, all they had time to do was shelter in place. They didn’t take the time for all those kids to go back to the classrooms. You need to be prepared.
“The principal can’t be the only person who has the authority to get on the intercom and announce they are going to lockdown procedures or whatever it may be. What if the school secretary looks out and God forbid sees a threat in the parking lot? She may not have the time to locate the principal.
“Everyone has a role. Everybody has something they need to do. So, we are always going to have some training on these types of situations. Teachers get a lot of their training in the drills. But in the case of who is going to do what in different situations, everyone has to know their role.”
Bottom line is it takes a village to protect the village.
Ruston High School Principal Dan Gressett knows this.
“To be honest we got away from locking doors down during covid because we needed to air the building out,” said Ruston High Principal Dan Gressett. “We are going to tighten back up on those access points and continue to focus on what we can do better to assure our campus is safe.”
Gressett said that he feels the student body also plays a big role in this endeavor.
“At this age (our students) have enough awareness about them that they want to feel safe at school,” said Gressett. “So, if they catch wind of something, they may not come to me, but they will go to a guidance counselor or a teacher. They are pretty good about that.”