Stephens Co. Reacts To Connecticut School Shooting

In light of last Friday’s tragic shooting at a Connecticut elementary school, the topic of school safety is again returning to the forefront.

Stephens County School Superintendent Sherrie Whiten said that school safety is always at the forefront of everything the school system does.

Whiten said that the school system tries to be proactive and emphasize safety throughout the year.

“Our school safety plans are reviewed regularly,” said Whiten. “We have practice drills throughout the year, which include intruder drills. Periodically, we will have someone come from Pioneer RESA that will do walk-throughs and give us a different look as far as our security measures at times. The folks do not know them and they will go around and try to get in and report back to us and we report back to the principals.”

She went on to say that the school system also works closely with all local law enforcement agencies.

“They have even trained their people in our buildings so they are pretty familiar with them,” said Whiten. “We have an SRO (school resource officer) that is at the middle school and the high school, but we have also assigned each of those SRO’s two elementary schools.”

Whiten did say that Friday’s events probably have everybody looking at things differently and reviewing their school safety plans, something she says the Stephens County School System is always doing.

As for law enforcement, Stephens County Sheriff Randy Shirley said he had his deputies provide an extra presence at the schools Monday morning to provide an extra level of safety, simply as a precautionary measure.

“I had my deputies to have high visibility there at the schools and at all the elementary schools, I had a patrol car parked out front,” said Shirley. “We just wanted to give not just the students, but the teachers, reassurance that they can depend on law enforcement.”

Shirley said his office will continue conducting some extra patrols through Wednesday when Stephens County Schools go on their holiday break.

In addition, Toccoa Police Department Interim Chief Tim Jarrell said that his officers were also operating with a heightened sense of awareness Monday as a precautionary measure.

The Connecticut tragedy also came up during Monday’s Toccoa City Commission meeting. Commissioners signed a card to send to the elementary school on behalf of the city of Toccoa expressing the city’s condolences.