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Editor and Contributing Writer

Photograph: St. Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby Guidroz addresses school board members Monday night. (Photograph by Bobby Ardoin.)

Parental monitoring of social media posting by their children would help decrease the chances for potential school campus threats and the potential for violent incidents, St. Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby Guidroz said on Monday night.

Guidroz said parents should also report what he called suspicious activity on their child’s social media communications to either school authorities or law enforcement in an effort to mitigate disruptions that could occur on campus.

The effects that social media could have on school campus behavior was discussed at some length as Guidroz laid out his proposal for school crisis management and response during an Executive Committee meeting.

Guidroz added that his plans for improved school safety at schools located outside municipalities originated after parish deputies and school resource officers completed an inspection at some District schools.

The presentation by Guidroz coincided with discussion by the Committee of possible additions to the students’ rights and responsibilities handbook.

Among the items discussed by the Committee were students’ uses of cell phones while on campus and the potential consequences for misuse of electronic devices by students.

“Cell phones are going to be a distraction, but how do we police it? Teachers also use (cell phones) for instruction,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins said school officials are searching for what he said “is the middle ground,” for cell phones and electronic device usage.

“They (students) are going to have them whether we like it or not,” Jenkins said.

Strategic Parts of School Safety Plan

Guidroz emphasized that all school principals are required annually by state law to develop crisis management and response plans which will be made available to law enforcement, fire, public safety and emergency preparedness officials.

Superintendent Patrick Jenkins told the Committee that school principals for the last two years have been required by the District to present plans that involve crisis management and safety precautions.

The main focus in both of the plans presented to the Committee by Guidroz is anchored to locking classroom doors in compliance with state law, installing cameras in key areas of school buildings and limiting the number of entry points of public access.

Also the plans include the use of metal detection devices to check for potential weaponry by students and campus visitors as well as installing reinforced doors for outside classrooms and perhaps fencing around school perimeters.

Guidroz said the installation of cameras in the hallways of schools is additionally significant, since the devices are able to monitor activity inside the schools.

The Costs for Safety

Funding all the improvements listed in the school security plan provided to the Committee will be costly, Guidroz admitted.

No estimates were provided by Guidroz on Monday night for the potential costs of improving school safety at rural public schools in St. Landry.

 “To do this, federal and state dollars will be needed. Certified officers for each school will cost (the District) $65,000 a year for each of them,” Guidroz said.

Guidroz said that federal funding packages for school safety were recently approved at the federal level.

What should be omitted in any federal school safety funding are mandates regarding officers’ training.

“We don’t need the federal government to retrain or tell local sheriffs and police chiefs in Louisiana what to do and how to do it. We are trained law enforcement officers. This is what we do. We live to protect others. We just need the funding,” Guidroz added.

What’s next?

Guidroz said tours of campuses indicate to him and his officers that there are some security concerns at some of the schools they visited.

“One of the concerns that we had was the lack of cameras. We also found two classrooms open. We are bringing each of those issues and others to the attention of the schools,” Guidroz said.

Guidroz said that once classes resume in August that he and his officers intend to provide training for school personnel in order to implement safety procedures.