| By Billy Davis and
Jason C. Mattox
If a gunman enters a school in Batesville, the Batesville Police Department can deploy a well-detailed action plan to react to the threat, the city’s police chief said this week.
A 15-page document called the Batesville Police Department School Crisis Plan maps out the department’s reaction to events ranging from a school shooting to a tornado.
Police Chief Gerald Legge showed a copy of the school crisis plan to a reporter during an interview Wednesday, hoping to assure parents and students that the police department is well aware of recent school shootings across the nation.
A 32-year-old gunman in Pennsylvania killed five girls in an Amish school Monday. That shooting followed a school shooting on September 27 in Wisconsin and September 29 in Colorado.
According to the document, a report of a gunman on campus would be declared an "active shooter situation," and officers would respond to that scenario accordingly. The plan includes a list of instructions for responding officers, including the commanding officer on the scene, an evacuation plan and assigned "staging areas" for teachers and students, and a diagram of each of the city’s school buildings.
Legge said neighboring SWAT teams would be available in case of a school shooting, with Oxford’s specially trained police officers being the closest. A list of those law enforcement agencies and their phone numbers are included in each copy of the plan.
Beyond those details, Legge asked that particular details be kept private due to security issues.
"We obviously don’t want details to get out (into the public), but we want parents to know that we’re aware of what has happened and have planned accordingly," Legge told The Panolian.
The crisis plan was tweaked last December, and officers trained according to the newer plan in January, the police chief said.
Reached this week, South Panola schools Superintendent Dr. Keith Shaffer said school principals are reviewing emergency plans following the recent school shootings.
"Supervision is what you try to harp on. You look for signs," the superintendent said."It’s important that the students know they can talk to the faculty – that we’re here to listen to them."
At North Panola, each school in the district, except Crenshaw Elementary, has a school security guard, according to Superintendent Glendora Dugger.
"All of our security guards are certified by the state, and we feel that our students are in a safe environment at each or our schools," she said.
Dugger added that the district hopes to have a school resource officer (SRO) on the Como campus within a few weeks. That officer would act as the supervisor for the other security personnel throughout the district.
"In addition to the SRO, we plan to add fences around the back of the North Panola High School, and Como," she said. "We are doing everything we can to keep our students safe."
"Everyone who enters one of our buildings must receive a pass from the office and have a purpose for being in the school," she added.
A 2002 study of school shootings found that attacks are typically planned and rarely done on impulse, and students often hear about the plans in advance, an Associated Press story reported this week.
The latest shooting in Pennsylvania didn’t follow the typical scenario, however, when Charles Carl Roberts IV barricaded himself in the one-room school. The death toll so far from the shooting is six, including Roberts.
Both Shaffer and Legge noted that South Panola’s school resource officers could be the strongest deterrents of school violence.
Four armed Batesville police SROs patrol the campuses, and a fifth police officer will begin SRO work in January, the police chief said.
Still another SRO, a deputy sheriff, also patrols the Pope School campus.
"My wife and I have a daughter who’s a senior, so I’m looking at this from two different ways," Legge said. "I want to see our schools be as safe as possible and be a comfortable learning environment."