In February, when the nation was reeling from school shootings in Western Kentucky and Florida, Corbin attorney Shane Romines posted a Facebook video offering to pay for walk-through metal detectors for South Central Kentucky schools. He encouraged parents and others to donate to their schools, too.
As school opened in the Barbourville Independent district Thursday, the results of that offer were apparent as students streamed through a walk-through metal detector and school staff and a law enforcement officer aided in student searches.
East Bernstadt Independent School District and Knox County Schools also installed walk-through metal detectors with donations from Romines.
“Overall, I was happy,” Romines, said of the responses to his offer. “For the most part, the parents were mostly all positive.”
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But some school administrators, Romines said, weren’t as receptive. Some simply didn’t like the idea of having metal detectors at their schools. “ I was a little disappointed in some of the schools.”
None the less, his video plea has brought safety measures to a number of schools throughout the area, directly and indirectly.
Corbin Independent, where Romines’ children go, didn’t take the stationary metal detectors, but “they’ve tightened up their security in other ways we’ve suggested. I feel like schools are more secure this year, even ones that didn’t take us up on the detectors. There have been measures taken even if it wasn’t what we specifically started out to get.”
Donations from Romines’ efforts totaled about $88,700. He and his firm donated $29,000, he said.
Romines gave metal detector machines and metal detector wands from his Facebook plea to East Bernstadt, Knox County and Barbourville, he said.
“Our office also sent checks to Laurel and Whitley County (who rejected stationary detectors) for $1,600 each, ” Romines said.
He donated money for security officers for Corbin schools, he said, adding that his efforts helped Pineville schools raise several thousand to increase safety measures.
Barbourville Independent Schools Superintendent Kay Dixon said her district started installing metal detectors last school year. Romines donated one, and parents and district officials purchased three others, she said.
Each of the district’s 670 students go through a metal detector each morning, Dixon said, and if middle or high school students leave during the day, they re-enter through a metal detector.
After the school shootings, Dixon said Barbourville Independent brought school resource officers into schools for the first time.
“We always felt like our campus was a very safe campus. We hadn’t had any issues. We wanted to make sure we kept it that way,” she said.
East Bernstadt Superintendent Vicki Jones said Romines purchased one walk-through metal detector and Laurel County Sheriff John Root got funding for three more. The school district also has eight metal detector wands.
“With the four walk through detectors, our students have not bottlenecked to form any lines outside,” Jones said. “Students and parents have been appreciative of the new measure taken for safety.”
Frank Shelton, a spokesman for the Knox Couny Schools, told the Knoxville Tennessee News Sentinel that the district began using school metal detectors in late February. The first walk-through metal detector were installed in a middle school that had banned backpacks, which made the screening process quicker, he said. Shelton told the Sentinel nearly 500 students can be screened in less than 10 minutes.
Fayette County Public Schools and Kentucky’s Marshall County Schools — where a student has been charged with killing and wounding classmates — decided to install stationary metal detectors. Fayette School board members recently approved a property tax increase that will in part pay for more metal detectors.
On Friday, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced that Marshall County School District had been awarded a Project School Emergency Response to Violence grant totaling $138,213. This grant will support the ongoing recovery efforts following the January 23 shooting at Marshall County High School that took the lives of two students and injured several others.
Marshall County Schools received an Immediate Services grant to provide emergency, short-term assistance. According to Kentucky education officials, the funds will be used to hire additional alternative school instructors, an additional homebound instructor and an aide to help counseling staff, as well as compensate bus and custodial staff for the extra services they will provide, a news release said.
WKYT-TV, the Herald-Leader’s reporting partner, reported in February that parents protested Laurel County’s decision not to install stationary metal detectors. Laurel County School officials did not immediately comment on their safety efforts Friday but the superintendent issued a statement in February saying district officials were studying the use of metal detectors and were implementing many other safety procedures.