Gwinnett schools adding visitor screening system, new tip line

Gwinnett County Public Schools Police Chief Tony Lockard demonstrates the district’s new front entrance security and sign-in system at Collins Hill High School in Suwanee on Friday, July 22, 2022. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Combined ShapeCaption
Gwinnett County Public Schools Police Chief Tony Lockard demonstrates the district’s new front entrance security and sign-in system at Collins Hill High School in Suwanee on Friday, July 22, 2022. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Officials also hope to hire more police officers as new school year nears

Gwinnett County Public Schools is implementing a new visitor screening system, upgrading building entrances and working to hire more police officers in an effort to enhance school safety.

The school police force is also calling on community members to speak up whenever there are concerns.

District Police Chief Tony Lockard and Coordinator of School Safety Wayne Rickard discussed the plans recently in advance of the new school year.

ExploreCOVID risk triggers staff mask requirement in Gwinnett schools

Gwinnett’s police force has 98 officers, and Lockard said the district aims to hire 10 to 20 more. There are two school resource officers (SRO) at most high schools and one at specialty high schools and middle schools. Some elementary schools have an officer as well.

At a recent school board meeting, Rickard said the police department determined several elementary schools that could be the home base of a new SRO, filling gaps in the department’s coverage area. Gwinnett, Georgia’s largest school district, has 142 schools. It’s also the largest school police force in metro Atlanta.

Safety measures have been discussed at the state level and at many metro Atlanta school districts in the two months since the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

Gov. Brian Kemp allocated millions of dollars after a three-day school safety conference. DeKalb County schools wants to hire 22 new officers and 30 unarmed security personnel. Clayton County schools will be equipped with metal detectors, and students must use clear backpacks.

In a school, Lockard said, police rely on parents, staff and students to look out for and report safety issues, so the district is launching a new tip line.

“Quite frankly, if a student is going to act out in a violent manner, there’s a good chance someone else knows about it,” he said.

The district is also implementing a system at all schools that standardizes the sign-in process and screens visitors to see if they’re on the National Sex Offender Registry.

ExploreMore stories about Gwinnett County Public Schools

More schools are being equipped with security vestibules at their main entrances, which add a layer of protection. After being remotely allowed through one set of doors, the front office can check identification and screen a visitor before letting them into the building.

Lockard said 15 schools have them and 19 schools are being retro-fitted for them.


Gwinnett’s school police tip line

People may text tips about banned items or substances, violence or threats of violence to 770-822-6513. Tipsters can remain anonymous.