School leaders stress safety in wake of Florida shooting


Less than a day after a 19-year-old shooter killed 17 people and injured more at a Florida high school, two local high school leaders reflected on the safety precautions they have in place to minimize tragedy if it were to strike in Dubois County.

Forest Park Junior-Senior High School Principal Jamie Pund explained that her corporation has a safety response plan that includes several active shooter drills that take place throughout the school year.

During the drills, all of the school’s students go into lockdown and then run through the motions just like they would do for a fire or a tornado drill or any other emergency situation.

“In the past, everyone always did the weather drills,” Pund said. “And now, unfortunately we’re in situations with our society that it has become fairly prevalent that schools do active shooter drills.”

Forest Park’s doors are also always locked and operated by a buzzer system. Pund recognized this isn’t foolproof, but said she believes putting prevention systems in place lowers the likelihood of something bad happening. Officers from the Ferdinand Police Department also spend time at the school daily — something Pund said can be comforting to the students in the wake of tragedies like the one that occurred Wednesday.

“That visibility is important,” Pund said. “I think that our kids feel more safe whenever we do have law enforcement present in the building.”

Jasper High School has enacted similar measures and staffs a full-time school resource officer, while other Jasper Police Department officers occasionally walk through the building.

“We seek to be diligent daily in pursuit of maintaining student and staff security,” said Jasper High School Principal Brian Wilson.

Northeast Dubois Principal Tina Fawks was at a workshop in Indianapolis today and could not comment, and Southridge High School Principal Chad Sickbert did not immediately return a call for comment. Most — if not all — school main entrances in the county are locked at all times and operated by a buzzer.

Southwest Dubois Schools and the Huntingburg Police Department are in the process of bringing a school resource officer to the corporation. Last month, Dubois County Sheriff Donny Lampert mentioned to the county commissioners that in the future, the county will need to look into adding a school resource officer to cover the Northeast Dubois Schools since the Dubois community is covered by the sheriff’s department.

When asked how to cut down the number of mass shootings across the country, Pund said that we as a society need to address mental health issues. She hopes legislative changes will someday provide people with additional mental health services.

Wilson declined to comment on the question, but said that locally, educators need to treat every day as “a day that’s important to keep students and staff safe and secure.

“Obviously as time goes by, one tends to be less diligent,” he said. “And we just have to remember that every day is important.”

Many students entered Forest Park this morning knowing what happened Wednesday in Florida. Pund said it is educators’ role to be in tune with how their students are feeling.

“I feel like there should be a balance between how much should be explained, and also listening,” she said when asked how to explain the event to a young teenager. “The kids are aware of what is going on, and everyone processes differently in how they respond to it,” Pund added. “I think in this situation, it’s really important as adults to be able to listen to how they’re feeling, and then be able to respond to that kid individually.”

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