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Local education officials issue statements on Texas school shooting

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Published: May. 25, 2022 at 6:18 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Richmond County School System Superintendent Dr. Kenneth Bradshaw sent a message to school system families in response to the school shooting that occurred Tuesday at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

Like you, we are deeply saddened by the news of Tuesday’s shooting at Robb Elementary School in Texas. Please join us in keeping the students, staff, and families of the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District in your thoughts during this time.

School should and must be a place where students feel safe and secure. Though our schools dismissed students for summer break yesterday, school safety is always our highest priority. Our School Safety and Security Officers work and train year-round on school safety plans and have a strong partnership with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office to provide additional support when such needs arise.

If you or your child have any safety concerns about our schools, please report them to the school office or by calling our 24/7 TipLine that is always available to receive information at 706-828-1077.

The National Association of School Psychologists has information that may help you answer your child’s questions and support them as they process the news about this tragic event.

· Talking to Children About Violence

· Spanish

Columbia County

The tragedy that took place in Uvalde, Texas, is heartbreaking and our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those impacted by this horrific act of violence.

The Columbia County School District takes the safety of students and staff extremely seriously. Currently, each school has a dedicated School Resource Officer, each with more than five years of law enforcement experience. In addition to the school district’s local training requirements, our officers are certified by the Georgia Peace Officers Standards and Training Council (POST), which requires annual, mandatory training in the areas of, but not limited to, de-escalation and community policing, among others. Our School Resource Officers oversee annual safety drills for each school, which are designed to keep our students and staff safe in the event of emergency situations.

Our school buildings are strategically constructed to prevent unauthorized entry, to include buzz-in systems at each entrance, and supervised visitor access, among other safety features, and our district has a responsive working relationship with local law enforcement. However, this tragedy reminds us of the importance of our School Resource Officers and administrators who remain alert and focus on student and staff safety each day.

Meanwhile...

Governor Brian Kemp released a statement Tuesday on school safety in Georgia following the deadly mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Texas.

“As the parents of three daughters – including one who is a first-grade teacher – Marty and I join all Georgians in mourning Tuesday’s senseless targeting of school children in Texas,” said Gov. Brian Kemp.

Officials say in March of 2022, Governor Kemp hosted a round table discussion focused on school safety with state and local law enforcement, education leaders, and elected officials.

“Focusing on school safety and improving Georgia’s mental health system are two issues that we tackled immediately upon taking office in 2019. We want to reassure Georgia families today that we have worked closely with the General Assembly and state agencies to ensure our students and educators have secure learning environments. We will continue to do all we can to protect Georgians – and especially our state’s most treasured asset, our children.”

Across the river

The Aiken County School District also issued a statement:

The top priority for Aiken County Public Schools remains the continued safety of our students, faculty, and staff. The events of May 24, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas, serve as another tragic and painful reminder that deplorable acts of gun violence directed at schools are possible anywhere. That is why the District is working proactively this school year to hire a Director of Security and Emergency Operations, increase the number of schools with a full-time School Resource Officer (SRO) and upgrade school entryways, while continuously reviewing and updating our safety protocols. Following this latest school shooting the District is maintaining continued vigilance and addressing any potential internal or external threat quickly and decisively.

Some in the Orangeburg community are remembering a shooting on schools that happened earlier this school year. In August, a gunman opened fire outside Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School in the parking lot during dismissal, injuring three. The injuries were non-life-threatening. According to officials, the 14-year-old suspect, who is charged with three counts of attempted murder, fired shots from a vehicle.

Following that incident, the Orangeburg County School District installed metal detectors at every district school, including the elementary schools.

On Wednesday, Orangeburg’s Interim Director of Public Safety Charles P. Austin said that to this point, the actions that the district has taken have worked, but there is more to do to keep students safe.

“We meet on a regular basis with the school officials to discuss what other steps need to be taken, but so far I believe what we have been doing is working, and we will continue to implement steps as they may be appropriate,” he said. “I don’t know that we’ll ever be able to offer anybody a 100 percent guarantee, but we will do the very best we can in conjunction with what is already in place.”

At Orangeburg County schools, district officials have said that the metal detectors are strategically placed at multiple entrances. In addition to that step, the district also implemented a clear backpack policy, and conducts thorough bag checks.

The district sent a message to families and staff on Wednesday informing them of steps the district is taking to further enhance safety measures. It states that district leadership met with local law enforcement agencies to discuss the Uvalde tragedy, and the impact that this has on students, teachers, staff and families.

The statement reads in part: “We know that teachers can’t teach and students cannot learn when concerned for their physical safety, and, together, we want to reassure our community that we are committed to safe learning environments.

We acknowledge that school safety concerns among our community are heightened, and, in response, we have asked all law enforcement agencies to enhance patrols around and within our school campuses throughout the next two weeks. As we near the end of this school year, there will be an enhanced police presence throughout the county on our school campuses. All agencies in marked and unmarked law enforcement uniforms and vehicles will support this effort. It is our hope that their presence will offer comfort and additional reassurance to our students, teachers, staff and families.”

Other Midlands school districts are considering taking similar steps to better protect students.

WIS and WTOC contributed to this report.

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