Increased Safety Measures in Place at Dunbar

In light of recent instances of violence in schools, there has been an increased focus on school safety. Although Dunbar currently has safety measures in place, the administration has initiated additional measures to ensure the safety of all students, faculty, and staff.

One of the most significant changes is the introduction of photo ID badges that all students will be required to wear.  According to Principal Betsy Rains, students will be given photo IDs to be worn in plastic sleeves attached to a lanyard. The school is providing these IDs and lanyards to students, but if a student wishes to use their own lanyards, they can.

Principal Rains said that the IDs will be made in-house this year and that future plans for the ID cards include a barcode on the back that students can use to check out library books and to pay for school lunches.

“Everyone holds on to their phone, everyone holds on to their keys, but we know not everyone will remember to bring an ID, so we’ve got to tie it to something that they’ll need so they will remember to bring it,” said Principal Rains.

But as with any new system, there will need to be adjustments during implementation. For instance, many students leave campus during the day for internships, or for MSTC students, research, so the administration is considering color coding ID badges for those instances and for half-day or technical school students so they will be more easily identifiable.

Although some students are skeptical about the IDs, most seem to agree it’s a good idea.

“Honestly, as much as it might become a pain to remember and wear IDs, I think it’s a good idea that they’re actually working to make things safer,” said senior Linda Kim.

There will be penalties for not wearing badges, but specific repercussions are still being discussed.

“We’re doing this for your safety so that we can identify who’s in the building,” said Principal Rains. “Everyone’s required to have ID. Teachers, visitors– everyone.”

Superintendent Manny Caulk has also stated that he will be requiring all FCPS staff to wear their photo ID badge on a lanyard.

“I appreciate both the passion and advocacy expressed by each of you and I promise that we will continue to be vigilant and proactive because no child should go to school in fear, and every family should welcome their children home at the end of the day,” he said in an email sent to all Fayette County staff members.

At Dunbar, administrators also provided staff with a whistle to add to the lanyard along with their photo ID. These whistles will serve to act as an “all-call” for help in the building.

“You know, I’ve got a radio…so if I need something, I can radio law enforcement,” said Principal Rains. “Teachers need a way to get immediate help as well.”

In addition to identification procedures, there are plans to increase security at entrances.

Starting at 8:25 a.m., all exterior doors are locked and monitored throughout the day. All visitors entering the building after school begins will need to buzz in, and before being admitted, they will be asked about the purpose of their visit by an administrative assistant. This applies to anyone entering during school hours, so students who have left the building and return during the school day will also be asked to identify themselves before being buzzed in.

Faculty and staff members can use their photo ID badges to enter the school, but they are being asked not to hold the door for those entering behind them.

“Neither staff nor students should open an exterior door for anyone,” said Principal Rains.

The administration is also asking that students not open a classroom door for anyone, either. “Teachers should answer the door to their classroom,” said Principal Rains.

Between classes and during transition times, the process is repeated.

“When tardy music stops, all classroom doors should be locked and closed,” said Associate Principal, Mr. Tony Blackman. “Students should only be permitted to enter with a tardy note.”

Principal Rains also stated that administration and law enforcement will be monitoring classroom doors to make sure they are locked at all times.

Mr. Blackman emphasized that although there have been problems in the past with exterior doors being propped open with rocks or pencils, there are plans to make sure that all exterior doors are more secure.

“I think it’s just one more step to ensure security and safety in the building,” said Associate Principal Ms. Andrea Tinsley.

Alarms are going to be placed on the fire exit door in the 800s and on the side entrance doors in the 900s.

Dunbar drama teacher, Mrs. Alicia Henning, whose classroom is right next to one of the 900 doors, said that she is pleased with this update.

“I emailed Ms. Rains after the Marshall County Shooting to express my concerns that kids go in and out of the doors by my room all day,” she said. “She said she would take care of it, and she did.”

Superintendent Caulk has also announced that he is providing funding to staff a greeter who will use a metal-detecting wand on anyone who enters the building. At Dunbar, Wes Johnson, who was recently named next year’s football coach, accepted the position. He has undergone a round of preliminary training and said that he will be administered more in-depth training in the days to come.

Coach Johnson is stationed by the front entrance, and he said that his instructions are fairly simple: when a person buzzes to enter, he waits for the administrative assistant to clarify the purpose of entry. Once the person is inside, Coach Johnson said that he politely explains that he needs to wand them.

“It’s funny,” he said, “because they started out this morning telling me that I might have a lot of angry people, and ‘if you have any belligerent people, just give us a call,’ but everybody that I’ve scanned today has been totally positive, and everybody that’s been through has [said] this is a much-needed effort.”

He will also soon have access to security cameras around the perimeter of the school, so he can be aware of any intruders who may not enter through the front doors.

Dunbar currently has two wands to use each day, and the district is in the process of ordering more.

Other details are still being addressed such as how to communicate directions to non-English speaking visitors. “This is a work in progress,” said Principal Rains. Right now, a sign will be placed outside of the school explaining the new procedures in various languages so that visitors understand what is expected.

Another directive concerns unsupervised students in the building after hours. Students must leave the building and property by 3:45 p.m. unless they are supervised by an adult. Students will no longer be allowed to wait in the foyer unsupervised after hours.

Thus far, these new procedures have been well-received by parents, students, and staff.

“I believe we still need to have more drills, but the smallest change right now is still changing,” said senior Olivia Geveden. ” I commend the acts of Dunbar administrators who don’t just make empty promises, but have action.”

Principal Rains said that she plans to send parents a message detailing all of these new procedures after making an in-school announcement to students.

The new safety measures will also be discussed during the next SBDM meeting at 4:30 p.m. on March 12. Parents are welcome to attend.

Principal Rains said that the administration is open to suggestions from parents and students regarding additional safety measures. She also emphasized that students need to continue to use the anonymous tip line. “If you see something, say something,” she said.

According to Superintendent Caulk, these are the immediate steps that the district will be taking  to strengthen existing efforts:

  • Anonymous tip lines will be expanded to include elementary schools and the district overall. Links for all schools and the district will be featured prominently on corresponding websites in a consistent location.
  • Hand-held metal detector wands will be provided to all special programs and middle schools. All secondary schools will be required to use these wands more frequently.
  • Schools will reinforce the importance of locking all exterior doors and work with students, staff and volunteers to ensure that doors are not propped open or opened for visitors.
  • Middle and high schools without secured vestibules [double entryways] will be provided an additional staff member to monitor school entrances and support the school safety plan.
  • Law enforcement schedules will be adjusted to provide an additional presence in our special programs and middle schools.
  • All district-level staff providing services in schools will wear picture identification tags.
  • Emergency drills will be expanded to ensure students and staff are prepared to go into lockdown throughout the school day, including lunch, recess, between classes, and at the beginning and end of the school day.
  • An enhanced emergency notification system for families, staff, and students.

Edit 2/23: This article has been updated to include information from Superintendent Caulk’s message to families.

PLD Lamplighter’s Business Manager, Olivia Turner, contributed to this article.