Here’s an overview of Alan Walters’ Campus Safety Conference East presentation on how the Georgetown County School District developed a culture of safety on campus.
Active shooter incidents are becoming more frequent on school campuses with the number of mass shootings increasing, according to the FBI. In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook tragedy, the Georgetown County (S.C.) School District embarked on a three-pronged approach to creating a comprehensive safety program. Using this comprehensive multi-disciplinary approach, the district has been able to effectively cultivate a culture of safety on campus.
In his Campus Safety Conference East presentation, How Active Shooter Response Can Lead to a Comprehensive School Safety Program, Alan Walters, director of safety and risk management at Georgetown County School District, discusses the district’s approach and shows how it can be applied to districts nationwide. He’ll be presenting this important topic at the conference, which takes place July 25-26 in Washington, D.C.
In this Q&A, Walters discusses his district’s three-pronged approach to active shooter response, shows the value of strategies like “hardening school entrances” and talks about the importance of building relationships with first responders.
Campus Safety: Why did your district implement this new active shooter response program?
Walters: When the Sandy Hook shooting happened, our school district — where I had two teenage boys in school — was working on some risk management initiatives but didn’t have an official “safety director.” When I took on this role, I wanted to do more than just throw money at the issue and see what we could come up with. Instead, we wanted to look more closely at how to take an active shooter situation and turn it into a comprehensive safety program.
Campus Safety: What were the first steps to achieving that goal?
Walters: We broke it down into three components: internal (district, staff, etc.), external (law enforcement and first responders) and physical (the actual campuses themselves). I’m a retired law enforcement officer, so I formed a school safety committee that started meeting monthly and doing walk-throughs with first responders. We also reached out to local and state law enforcement and began enlisting their help in training our staff — nearly 1,400 total individuals — on active shooter response.
Campus Safety: What types of physical security changes were initiated?
Walters: We focused on hardening our entranceways. We created walkways that controlled access into an office. Those walkways and the offices themselves were outfitted with bullet-resistant panels and glass. We’re also using more camera and communications systems in our buildings, some of which are 60 years old — a fact that made the transition somewhat more challenging. We don’t want to look like a prison, and these areas are still accessible to people, but we feel that there’s real value in tightening up our schools’ access points.
Campus Safety: Are you satisfied with the results of these and other efforts you’ve undertaken?
Walters: There’s always room for improvement, and there’s always the issue of dollars to contend with. Our superintendent and our school board are both very strongly behind this notion that teachers can’t do their jobs, and kids can’t learn if they’re worried about their safety. We want our teachers to feel good about coming to work and for our students not to be worried when they’re here. We want our parents to feel that when they drop their children off that they’ll be safe when they’re in our care. That’s the first step to effective learning.
The third annual Campus Safety Conferences are education and training events for anyone who has a stake in ensuring the public safety and security of our nation’s schools, universities, and colleges. Taking place in Washington, D.C. July 25-26 and Long Beach, Calif., Aug. 9-10, the conferences provide full-day training workshops, a campus police chief and a K-12 safety panel, dozens of conference sessions, and more than 35 companies showcasing their products, services, and technologies.
To register for the Campus Safety Conferences, visit CampusSafetyConference.com. Alan Walters will be speaking at CSC East, K-12 Track, on July 26.