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Securing Student Safety: How Students, Faculty, and Emergency Services Work to Keep Campus Safe

By Sarah Vincent-- Eagle Staff Writer

There were 303 school shootings in 2022, making it the highest number of shootings per year in history according to the K-12 School Shooting Database. With such a climb in the number of annual mass shootings, many students on campus are wondering what would happen if there were a threat at Franklin County High School.

There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes to ensure student safety. At the high school, a Crisis Team is tasked with attending training through the Department of Juvenile Justice and ensuring that school faculty is adequately trained for emergencies.

“Each staff member has a [copy of the] crisis manual that is updated yearly,” added Jason Guilliams, Director of Operations for the division. “The crisis manual is unique to each school as it includes some information that is specific to each school… During the actual drill, we are looking for doors that are locked, students and staff out of sight in classrooms, being prepared during an emergency.”

Crisis prep stretches far beyond just the school faculty. The school works closely with Rocky Mount Police, the Sheriff's Department, Public Safety, Local Emergency Management, and much more to accommodate any type of emergency.

“Our relationship with Rocky Mount Police, Sheriff's Department, and Public Safety is very strong. We have a healthy working relationship to make sure our schools are as safe as possible,” Guilliams elaborated.

Despite all that school administration puts into lockdown prep, there’s plenty that the community can do to make every school a safer place for students. This is where CRASE comes into play. CRASE stands for Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events and seeks to teach anyone interested about how to respond to an active shooter threat, as explained by ALERRT at Texas State University.

“CRASE is open to anyone, even high school students. It is a very good instructional class that helps you to be situationally aware in all places,” said Guilliams.

CRASE trainings are offered online and by local law enforcement officers. The training serves to teach a number of skills and responses in the event of an active shooter. CRASE training includes the language “Avoid, Deny, Defend” which was recently introduced to Franklin County’s lockdown protocol.

Avoid, Deny, Defend replaces the language “Run, Hide, Fight” and serves to clarify what a citizen’s priorities should be during an active shooter event. Avoid means to take all necessary precautions to prevent an emergency situation. Deny means taking any action to create distance from the threat. Defend means to protect or fight against a threat when avoiding and denying are no longer options.

An infographic provided by Texas State University located on the door to 241 Tech A details the meaning of "Avoid, Deny, Defend." (Photo by Sarah Vincent)

“[“Avoid, Deny, Defend”] language was added to condition our students and staff to do whatever possible to keep an intruder out and when it is impossible, defend using anything you can get your hands on,” stated Amy Johnson, Assistant Principal and member of the Crisis Assessment Team.

Alongside all the preparation Franklin County Public Schools does to ensure student safety, Rocky Mount Police Department conducts active shooter drills at the high school and other local schools over the summer. This is in addition to several trainings for school faculty and the police.

“Drills are important to make sure everyone (students, staff, admin, school safety officers, etc.) know what to do in an emergency,” Guilliams informed, referring to the drills administration, the police, and students do.

School lockdown drills have been in place for over a decade, with every student currently attending the high school having participated in them since elementary school. The drills are mandated by the state and serve to create muscle memory for students if they were ever faced with a real lockdown.

“Keep calm and listen for directives,” advised Johnson, “In addition, take all drills seriously.”

Drills are the main form of lockdown preparation involving students. Making sure that all students are able to fully participate and learn from the experience improves the ability of the school as a whole to adequately prepare for emergencies.

“Be prepared is the key. [Know] what to do when and if you are placed in a real life situation,” added Guilliams.

Faculty, administration, local emergency services, and students all play a role in ensuring that school is a productive place for learning. By partaking in local trainings, actively participating in drills, and reporting any potential threats to administration or emergency services, students can help foster a safer environment at school.

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