Police to perform safety assessment of Dothan schools

Police to perform safety assessment of Dothan schools
(Source: WSFA 12 News)

DOTHAN, AL (WSFA) - The City of Dothan plans to perform a threat assessment to determine the best safety practices to keep students safe.

"When you have this many events happening around the nation, it'd be foolish of us to not be proactive," said Mayor Mark Saliba, referring to school shootings.

The mayor says school safety was a high priority during city leaders' strategic planning meeting. Friday, new city schools superintendent, Dr. Phyllis Edwards, met with Saliba, Police Chief Steve Parrish, and School Board Chairman Mike Schmitz to discuss school safety.

It came a day after police investigated the second threat in the last three months at Carver Magnet. The school was placed on lockdown. Police say they are still investigating.

From Friday's meeting, a decision was made to conduct an assessment of the 18 schools in the school system. Tactical officers, who are trained for active shooter situations, will conduct the assessments.

"We are going to have officers go out to schools with their clipboards and iPads and identify areas that are of concern to us from a safety standpoint," Parrish explained.

The police chief says officers will look at things like doors and entry points, lighting, and areas that may benefit from security cameras.

"That's step one. To find out where our problems are and as we move forward address those," the chief stated.

The school system also plans to conduct a facilities assessment that looks at the layout of buildings. The police chief says he plans to meet with school leaders next week and would like to make progress on addressing safety concerns over the next two to three months.

Michelle Screety's son is a sophomore at Dothan High School. She feels safe when she sends her son to school but believes more can be done.

"I think they need more help than resource officers and that the public should have to be buzzed in," the mom explained. "Maybe it's come to a point where we need metal detectors. Prayer is also needed in schools. That's for sure."

Parrish says things like metal detectors aren't off the table in securing schools, but some of the more controversial options making headlines, like arming teachers, create some concerns.

"You have school teachers and police officers. And police officers are not school teachers and teachers are not police officers," the chief said.

In terms of cost and paying to make changes to schools following the threat assessment, the mayor says he hopes it's a community effort, "whether you have children or grandchildren, nephews or nieces, that everybody is touched by this issue. Even though it's largely a school board responsibility, it's an issue, we as a city, need to be especially caring about."

Dr. Edwards couldn't be reached for a comment Monday but in the press release about the meeting noted that the process of staying in contact to review and update safety procedures will continue under her leadership.

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