October 5, 2006
In the last two days, more than 600 students have missed school in Columbia County after written threats of violence were found in boys' restrooms.
So tonight, parents are wondering: just how do the inner workings of a high school change after its safety is threatened?
The key word - at least at Lakeside - is escorts.
Students aren't going anywhere alone...and as we found out today, they're constantly being watched.
Officer Duke Smalley is on the move.
"So that we can monitor the people going to the bathrooms," he told News 12. "It's not really a privacy issue. We're going to be watching them anyway."
The ten-year veteran is used to checking locks at Lakeside High School, but after a bomb threat was written inside a bathroom stall, there are changes. Over half the school's restrooms are restricted, and several other freedoms are also being cut.
Over 100 students were absent at Lakeside High School today, and the ones who were in attendance saw signs reminding them they'd be escorted to and from class.
Those escorts were administrators or officers, called in special.
Drafting teacher Jay Gilstrap is also pulling extra duty.
"I'm in charge and responsible of the men's bathroom," he told News 12.
The additional job is taking him out of his drafting classroom.
"I'm taken away from my desk and it's a little bit of a routine difference for me too."
Another difference may not occur until later. Ten new security cameras will bring the school's total to 24.
A high-tech feed allows administrators to easily watch student behavior.
"They're not very expensive," Officer Smalley said. "They're somewhere between 25 and $3000."
These threats have some schools second-guessing their emergency plans. So just to be safe, a meeting is scheduled tomorrow between administrators and Columbia County officials, including the sheriff's office, to talk about that.
To make matters worse, the threats have come during Columbia County's Homecoming week.
It's bad timing, and students are fed up. They want whoever's responsible for this to come forward so things can return to normal.
Students can call an anonymous hotline to report problems or suspicious behavior. The number is 1-877-SAY STOP.
The system was set up eight years ago as an extra tool to help prevent classroom violence.