Sometimes we're criticized for locking too many doors at Grenada School District. It can be a frustration for students, teachers, and visitors alike. Symbolically, it goes against everything we believe in here — that doors and opportunities should be open to all.
And yet, in our current age and social climate, locked doors are an unfortunate necessity. We see too many instances of catastrophic violence in communities throughout America. Everyone who maneuvers through the public sphere must face this threat, whether we're out shopping, attending an outdoor event, worshipping in church, and yes, even attending school.
Parents are right to ask, Is Grenada School District doing enough to protect my child? Allow me to take this opportunity to briefly explain the lengths to which we go each day to keep your family members safe.
First off, GSD established its own campus police force in 2013. Three armed officers serve our seven campuses and operate under the same standards of any municipal police force, as set forth and upheld by the state of Mississippi. Internally, the officers are held to an even higher standard of training, as many as double the amount of state minimum training hours.
In addition to our school resource officers (SROs), we also contract locally with Safe Security for an additional team of security guards who are stationed strategically throughout the school system.
Our campus police work closely with the city police force as well as the county sheriff's department and administrators on every campus. Their partnerships and access to law enforcement resources extend well beyond Grenada.
For a job as big and important as security director for GSD, you want someone like Benji Britt. When he applied for the job, he came with a host of solutions to beef up security and make bus transportation more efficient. (His plans were so extensive, it took him three interviews to explain it all to us!) Benji is a lifelong citizen of Grenada and a graduate of Grenada High. He's an incredible leader and a forward-thinker who gathers and studies all the information thoroughly before making a decision.
I have seen his crisis management plans, which take into account the unique physical characteristics of each campus and include not only criminal acts but natural disasters such as fires, tornadoes, earthquakes, etc. I have tremendous faith in his ability to keep our kids safe, whether they're on buses going to and from school or learning in the classroom. He's always devising plans, coordinating with other law enforcers, or conducting and receiving training.
I'm also impressed by the way our police force works with administrators and teachers to pass along their knowledge and strategies, including instruction on how to de-escalate situations in the classroom. Different types of personalities and cultures require different responses, and our teachers have learned how to deal with a variety of situations and temperaments to achieve peaceful solutions in the event of a volatile encounter.
Similarly, teachers and staff throughout the district recently attended a training seminar conducted by the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide, which presented hypothetical scenarios and taught appropriate methods for confronting kids who were a danger to themselves. We offer our teachers resources and training to make them aware of each student and to notice changes in character or behavior that may indicate a problem. Teachers and staff have become empowered to address these situations and begin the process of getting these student proper help.
It's important that we are all vigilant in efforts to keep our schools safe, not only to preserve the lives of our kids but to protect our communities, which also suffer greatly in the wake of these tragedies.
No matter how vigilantly we watch the students, no matter how many doors we lock and how many safety measures we put in place, this is ultimately a problem the community must solve. It requires us all to be aware of what our kids are doing, to understand their frustrations, and to teach them how to cope with the struggles of growing up in a complicated world. We will see more positive results if we all find ways to help instead of restrict.
So in the spirit of helping, we hope you'll come forward if you have any security concerns or red flags that have been raised outside of school. Come forward and let us help. If you have a tip to pass along to Benji, reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or give him a call at 662-614-2552.