Stationary metal detectors will be placed at Frederick Douglas High School “as soon as possible,” and all students will be required to pass through them daily after a student in class accidentally shot himself in the hand Friday, said Fayette Superintendent Manny Caulk.
No immediate decisions have been made about expanding that to place similar metal detectors at other schools, officials said Friday.
But everyday life is already being transformed — in ways big and small — for students and staff in Fayette County Public Schools in the wake of recent school shootings in Western Kentucky and Florida, a myriad of threats and rumors of violence in the past few weeks and gun incidents that have now affected three Lexington high schools.
From new limitations on building entrances used by students at Lafayette High to loud whistles that staff at Paul Laurence Dunbar wear around their necks to summon help, the climate is changing.
“We have added entrance monitors at the five high schools that do not have a secure vestibule that leads into the main office: Bryan Station, Henry Clay, Lafayette, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and Tates Creek high schools,” District spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall told the Herald-Leader this week prior to the shooting. “All middle and high schools now have multiple metal detector wands and each school has established protocols for when they will be used.”
At some schools all visitors and students who enter after the first bell are screened with the metal detector wands and at other schools, students who return to campus after leaving are screened. Henry Clay, where a loaded gun was found March 1, does both.
Lexington Mayor Jim Gray previously said he would ask the Urban County Council to help pay for fixed metal detectors if they were needed and sheriff’s officials have offered manpower. In the past, school officials thought sending every high school student and staff through a fixed metal detector could take too much time and money. Deffendall said after Friday’s shooting that the costs for the Douglass metal detector had not been calculated yet.
These days at every high school, administrators and law enforcement make sure that exterior doors remain securely locked at all times. Law enforcement officers check parking lots and walk the campus perimeter, Deffendall said.
Faculty and staff at Bryan Station, Frederick Douglass, Lafayette, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and Tates Creek high schools are now required to wear badges at all times. Students at Frederick Douglass have been issued student IDs and Dunbar expects to give student badges next week, said Principal Betsy Rains in an interview this week. Staff at Dunbar also have whistles.
Rains said administrators have radios, but not every teacher has one. She said teachers summon help with the whistle. At Dunbar, teachers now answer school room doors instead of students.
A Paul Laurence Dunbar student was recently removed from school and charged by police after a tip that he was talking about shooting up the school. A rifle and 500 rounds of ammunition were found at his home.
Rains said the new safety measures helped soothe students as news broke of that situation.. “I think that’s why there wasn’t absolute panic.. because we’ve been communicating with students,” she said.
“Staying on top of the safety has made a big difference in the reaction from students and parents” about the student who was arrested, Rains said.
Visitors to all school campuses are required to sign in and receive a visitor badge.
Due to the unique nature of each school building, some schools have taken actions that are not needed in other locations. For example, Lafayette has begun limiting the number of entrances students use to get into the building. Other schools already had limited building entrances.
Administrators at Dunbar have requested additional alarms on some exterior doors and now require classroom doors to be locked after the tardy bell rings.
Other schools may not have identified those steps because that was already a protocol on their campus. Henry Clay has requested additional fencing around its portable complex, which schools without portables would not need. Henry Clay, Paul Laurence Dunbar at Tates Creek high schools have added a communication app for faculty and staff. Others already had those in place, Deffendall said.
At Douglass, safety measures include Raptor Technology, a web-based check-in technology for tracking school visitors. As the district’s newest building, Douglass was constructed with additional security cameras and mobile command stations in each academy wing.
Some unique steps being taken at Dunbar include news messages from law enforcement officers, and the addition of Friday safety reminders for students, Deffendall said.
Fayette County officials are working now to come up with comprehensive recommendations to send to state lawmakers to improve school safety.
Lexington Traditional Magnet School Principal Larry Caudill in a March 2 message to parents talked about a change in that school building.
“Our own visitor procedures were tested, which prompted changes in our own practices and routines,” Caudill told parents. “If you have visited our office recently, you have experienced this extra attention to the visitor process. We’re fortunate at LTMS to have a secure vestibule to safely greet and monitor our visitors. Moving forward, all visitors will be greeted by our attendance clerk in her new office, next to our previous clerk window. While waiting for an appointment or student to arrive, all visitors will be required to remain in the secure vestibule.”
Caudill said several family members had accessed the building without following visitor protocols.
“Our office staff acted immediately, alerting the administration and I’m happy to report the visiting family members responded accordingly and returned to the appropriate office location. Unauthorized access to the main part of our school building will not be tolerated, and law enforcement will be dispatched,” Caudill said.