By Tamas Mondovics
“This exercise was as real and intense as it gets,” said newly hired Johnson County High School music teacher Nathan Jones, 24, following a recent mock intruder, active shooter drill organized by Johnson County Schools JCS).
The event—designed to ensure that the sounds and actions of an armed intruder could be clearly heard and felt—involved all district personnel while joining forces with the Johnson County Emergency Management Agency (JOCOEMA) the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) and the Mountain City Police Department (MCPD).“Safety is the top priority of the Johnson County School System,” said Angie Wills, Ed.S. Supervisor of Elementary Education. “We are continually reviewing our procedures and plans to ensure that we are doing as much as possible to protect students while they are in our care.”Johnson County Director of Schools Mischelle Simcox explained that ahead of the recent drill, the district and all schools were required to do a thorough update to their individual school improvement plans this year.
“We have been planning this event in collaboration with area law enforcement and the Johnson County Emergency Management office for the past two years, Simcox said. “Although the start of the school year is and should be a happy time, we felt that this drill was important for the safety of all our students and staff.”
The nearly two-hour intense drill supervised by EMA Director Jason Blevins and EMA Operations Manager Mike Sumner was both well organized and executed. “This is an event that benefits all of us,” Sumner said, adding that sadly this day and age such events are on everyone’s mind. Blevins agreed when he said, “We must be ready. If this was to happen, we have to think about what to do or what we should and should not do.” With the intruder scenario in motion, the seven-member Johnson County Special Response Team (SRT), with the assistance of local law enforcement officers and deputies went to work and quickly disengaged and disarmed the bad guy, followed by systematically clearing out and securing the Johnson County High School campus room by room.
“We are taking every opportunity to ensure that our schools are safe and that we are all prepared to handle the situations we don’t want to happen,” said SRT Commander Sgt. Jeff Norman. The Special Response Team also included investigators Matthew Cress, Brad Sutherland, Cpl. Josh Peter’s, as well as SRO deputies Mark Gladden, Chris Lipford and Adam Worley.
Of course, the recent active shooter drill is by no means the only safety measures being taken by school officials. “All schools participate in monthly required drills that include, fire, earthquake, tornado, and armed intruder drills,” Wills said. “These drills must be logged and are checked by the state fire marshal. The lead district security officer is sent to additional training and shares best practices with our other two district security officers.” District administration has also met with the city mayor to discuss safety measures, and the city police department is supporting our city schools by providing extra security throughout the day.
“We have also been in communication with the sheriff’s deputies who are providing additional security checks to our county schools,” Wills said. Currently, JCS has one full time school resource officer that serves the JCMS and JCHS complex. The district has updated its school entrances at the majority of its campuses with secured entrances. The district plans to continue this project until all doors are made more secure. The school board has also appropriated funds this year to upgrade the now outdated security camera system. JCMS and JCHS students are also provided an avenue to report safety concerns anonymously through an app called STOP IT.
“This notifies administration immediately so that situations can be investigated in real time,” Wills said. “Again, safety is our top priority, and we welcome suggestions that would help to make our schools safer.”
Perhaps, on a personal note, Jones summed up the day nicely when he said, “I appreciate the County and all involved doing this for us to keep us safe, doing their job so we can do ours.”
For more information about Johnson County Schools please, visit www.jocoed.net.