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School district examines security measures in wake of Parkland tragedy


In the wake of the Feb. 14 school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High, officials with the Germantown Municipal School District recently offered assurance that the district is working diligently to prevent such a tragedy from occurring within the school system.

Board of Education Chairman Betsy Landers and Superintendent Jason Manuel addressed the measures being taken by GMSD during last month’s regularly scheduled meeting.

Landers focused on early intervention and mental health while Manuel discussed elevated safety precautions within Germantown’s schools.

“We value the development of the whole child and we have been focused on social emotional development since the creation of our district,” she said.

The district currently employs 15 counseling and mental health staff members, Landers noted, which includes a mental health clinician.

Each school counselor is annually trained by mental health workers on “identification, prevention and support of ‘at risk’ students.”

Counselors and social workers also provide crisis assessments at each individual school.

“As part of our crisis intervention,” Landers said, “any email or situation that has a social emotional component is referred to our counseling department, along with administration, to provide support as needed.

“We take every tip or situation seriously and are constantly working behind the scenes to serve the families and students,” she added.

Manuel noted that the district already has safety precautions in place but said more can be done in order to be proactive.

“I think the concern for all of us is that this is not a trend that is going away,” he said. “This is a concern for us that these tragedies continue to happen in the United States and we want to be the best prepared that we can if this ever happened in our district.”

Manuel went on to note that state law requires the school district to perform 11 fire drills annually. There are also four safety educational announcements and four drills. Half of these are designated intruder drills. The other two are earthquake drills.

“The last time there was a death in a school was in the 1950s,” he said. “So, it seems like the requirement for drills does not match our current reality. That is something we need to talk about. There should be a balance that mirrors what we need in our communities.”

Manuel said every school is equipped with a resource officer thanks to a partnership with the city.

“Some of them are also members of the SWAT team,” he added.

There is also a district emergency plan at each school.

“The front desk check-in procedure requires a background check for all visitors,” he said.

Regarding preventative measures, Manuel said the district has an anonymous alert program.

“Any time a tip comes to our web site it comes to me and school staff,” he said. “We immediately investigate those.

“I’d like to say that we’re better than the FBI in that, if we get a tip, we are going to investigate and make sure we have done our due diligence to prevent that from happening.”

The district also has an email monitoring system that is alerted by key words.

Manuel said he plans to meet with the administrators at each school to search for safety improvements. The Germantown Police Department will also be consulted.

“These will be released to the community in the next few months,” Manuel said of the findings.

Landers and Manuel urged those seeking for more information to call the district office at 901.752.7877.

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