End of school year brings heightened safety issues

Metro Atlanta school officials say they keep safety in mind during the last days of the school year.

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Metro Atlanta school officials say they keep safety in mind during the last days of the school year.

With the shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, still fresh in the minds of students, parents and school administrators across the county, a threat of violence at an Ohio high school prompted officials to cancel the last day of school on Wednesday. Although the details weren't revealed, police in Middletown thought it was dangerous enough that the safest option was to close the high school a day early.

End-of-school-year safety used to be about keeping kids from pulling the fire alarm or putting shaving cream on toilet seats. The lure of swimming pools and sleeping later can make youngsters restless, careless and heedless of rules, said Jeffrey Arnett, a professor of human development and family studies at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

In this new climate of heightened awareness about school safety, end-of-the-school-year protocol is more important than ever.

A note this week on Fulton County Schools' website assures the community the district will not let its guard down when it comes to the safety and security of students and staff.

“In recent months, we have taken further steps to strengthen security on all of our campuses. We have retrained our staff on active shooter protocols, added more police officers to our force, and strengthened security measures on everything from our front entry systems, to surveillance cameras,” wrote Superintendent Jeff Rose.

Many DeKalb County schools restricted students from bringing backpacks and book bags during the last week of school, and lockers were cleaned out a week ago.

"All backpacks brought to school will be confiscated upon entering the building," said Redan Middle School principal Karen Davis in a recorded message to parents.

The school district backed up that practice with its own statement:

“The DeKalb County School District places safety among its highest priorities. Its safety and security protocols remain in place, and the district continually works with several law enforcement agencies at all levels, especially this time of year, to keep its students and staff members safe.”

Cobb County said school personnel were extra vigilant in watching out for trouble.

“As is the case year-round, student and staff safety is always our top priority. As we near the end of the school year, officers at our high schools are on patrol for additional hours (including nights and weekends) and are particularly conscious of the potential for increased student vandalism incidents,” said spokeswoman Nan Kiel.

Henry County officials said they weren’t treating the end of school differently than any time of year, but know that students may be tempted to be disobedient.

“We treat every day the same with a strong emphasis on student and staff safety and security. We do recognize that certain dates and times of the year bring a unique focus to these issues, and those isolated dates and times might require more comprehensive discussions to ensure further measures are not needed,” said spokesman John Hardin. “Our district works hard to involve all stakeholders, internally and externally, and remind them to remain vigilant and report issues they know might be problematic when it comes to ensuring safety and security throughout Henry County Schools.”