By REBECCA HAZEN
Dade County School administrators and members of law enforcement from local and state agencies gathered to discuss school safety on July 6. This gathering was in addition to the meeting that is usually held at the beginning of each school year.
Members of the Dade County Sheriff’s Office, Dade County Emergency Management, Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA), and Georgia Department of Natural Resources were at the meeting.
“Normally we have a back-to-school safety meeting every year just to make sure that everyone is on the same page. In the spring with the issues at Uvalde, we felt like it was time we came together as a group to make sure that we are a unified front,” Superintendent Josh Ingle said.
“It started first with Columbine, Parkland, and Uvalde. Ever since those situations, we have always worried about that. This meeting was more enhanced. We cannot stress how proactive we want to be. We love our kids. We want to make sure that our school system is the safest it can be,” Dade County Sheriff Ray Cross said.
Cross noted that it was important to get all the agencies together for the meeting because they all need to work together and have good communication.
“All of the other agencies are big supporters of us and each other and they want to help in any way that they can. It all starts with communication. We would have to contact them and get them here as quick as possible,” Cross said.
Cross said that in the event of a threat, there are many factors that would come into play. Law enforcement officials would have to think about the parents trying to get to the school, the safety of nearby businesses and residents, and the news getting out on social media while the situation is still active.
“We have to take all of that into consideration. There is a lot of training that goes into it,” Cross said.
One of the decisions that came out of the meeting was for the officers to walk the halls of each of the schools before the students return, to familiarize themselves with the layouts of the schools and classrooms. Also, officers will be working on active shooter scenario trainings, too.
In addition, two of the School Resource Officers (SRO) are being sent to Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERTT) in Texas. Cross also noted that he has quarterly meetings with different counties, including in Tennessee and Alabama and they can and are able to use each other’s resources.
“With the way things change, you can never have enough training. The Sheriff insists on all the training that we can get. The whole active shooter thing changed everything. We learned a lot from Columbine. I can assure you that in this jurisdiction, we will go to the threat. We are not going to stand by and wait. We will be the first ones pushing through that door,” Detective Chad Payne said.
When Cross first became Sheriff, there was only one SRO for all four schools. Now there is an SRO in every school.
“The SROs know that if something happens, they are to go to the threat,” Payne said.
Both Cross and Payne said that, as far as they can remember or know, there has never been a credible threat in Dade County Schools.
“We can’t just turn a blind eye though. We want to be prepared. If someone comes to our schools to harm our children, they will be met with deadly force,” Cross said
“School safety will always be the top priority. We are blessed to be in a community that has such a strong working relationship with our law enforcement. All superintendents in Dade County have maintained a great relationship with law enforcement. On my watch, we are going to continue to do that,” Ingle said.