According to HCPS Superintendent Terry Price, to reduce the risk of an external threat, the schools have changed the way they allow anyone to gain entry into the building. Each school will require visitors to “buzz in” from outside, stating their name and purpose of the visit. All visitors must now present a government-issued picture identification, like a driver’s license, before they will be allowed to enter the building. Before the individual will gain full entry, office personnel will do a visual assessment before allowing him or her to entry a second set of locked doors, which puts them inside the school.
“That’s going to be at the high school, middle school, New Castle and the preschool and eventually at Eastern, when renovations are complete at that school. The only school without a double set will be Campbellsburg, due to the nature of the design of that building,” Price said. “We’re basically adding an additional stop point. It’s been in place in many districts for several years, but we’re now implementing it here in Henry County.”
Once inside an HCPS building, if visitors want to move past the front office, they will be subject to an additional identification system that uses their driver’s license to run an abbreviated background check that will alert if that person is a registered sex offender or if there are active custody violations. If the system clears the visitor, he or she will be asked to exchange their driver’s license for a visitor badge with their photo printed on it. When they exit the building, the license will be returned.
It’s not just an id system, though.
“It’s also capable of allowing the secretary or office aide to notify specific personnel in the district in the event someone enters the building without authorization or there is a situation that requires immediate attention,” Price added. “It can also be used in the event of a weather emergency.”
Price said that there is also a new policy that classroom doors must be locked at all times during instructional hours and that all staff must wear identification badges at all times.
“And that’s including the superintendent,” Price said. “That way students can know who is a trusted adult in the building if they need some assistance. If there is someone in the building without an id badge, students are asked to report that to the front office so it can be dealt with.”
New this year to HCPS is a districtwide active shooter training that all personnel were required to attend, including teachers, bus drivers, custodial and school nutrition staff and administrative staff. In addition, Price is working with first responders in the area who would be called into the school should there be a large-scale incident to tour all the buildings to gain first-hand knowledge of the physical layout.
“I want them to actually come into the school to tour the buildings and not just rely on a map of the building,” Price said. “We want them to come in and actually look at the nooks and crannies and possible hiding spots. We would eventually like to have an actual active shooter training in one of our buildings as well.”
Knowing that most school shootings are committed at the hands of a student, HCPS is also taking measures to reduce the risk of internal threats. Students are asked to report anything out of the ordinary and also to “say something,” if they “see something,”
“Most of the time, it’s been my experience, that someone will hear something or someone will see something. Then the most important step - for a student to be able to truly report that, and for us to thoroughly investigate it,” Price said.
Students can talk to someone at the school, or can report a possible unsafe situation through an upgraded tipline managed by the Department of Homeland Security. Parents, teachers, staff and community members can also use the tipline.
“The previous tipline through the Kentucky Center for School Safety accepted reports of bullying,” said Zach Woods, HCPS director of pupil personnel and school safety coordinator. “In addition to bullying now, anybody can report any suspicious activity – things they hear or see.”
There is a link at the bottom of the school website – henry.kyschools.us – to the S.T.O.P. tip line. (Scroll to the bottom of the website and locate a stop sign image.) This link leads you through a simple process of reporting a concern.
The district has also placed great emphasis on the wellness and mental health of its students. There will be additional counseling services provided for school-based mental health, the district employs a full-time certified social worker, and staff are trained in recognizing possible mental health issues.
“It revolves around trauma-informed care,” Price said. “It’s all aimed at identifying students who may be having issues with mental health so we can point them in the right direction to get the appropriate help they need. And we’re seeing more and more kids every year who have true mental health issues, even in small children where that used to not be the case.”
Price believes it is important to inform the community of added safety measures that HCPS has implemented in a continual effort to keep kids safe.
“We take safety seriously, and I believe we’re doing an outstanding job with our security. Everyone who has been trained in implementing our safety measures is doing those things with fidelity,” Price said. “Blanketing the care of 1,900 kids a day is a heavy burden. Our students, our staff, our parents, and volunteers in our buildings – we want everybody to be safe.”