Safety in our schools: Marshall County

MARSHALL COUNTY, KY — Andrew Coleman says he was hanging out with his friends in the commons area of Marshall County High School when another student opened fire.

“Dad always told me if you can’t run, then hide,” says Andrew. “So, at first we ran. We got out of the school, and I saw a kid that had got hit in the arm, and I realized, like, this is something that’s — could be…life altering.”

Andrew is an Eagle Scout, and on Jan. 23 his skills were put to the test when he saw that a classmate had been shot in the leg. “Sat him down and treated him for shock, because he really just seemed out of it,” says Andrew. “I elevated his legs. I had some tissues in my backpack, so the first thing I did was get those tissues out and put them over the wound. A parent came by truck, and we loaded William up in the truck as best we could, and they took him to the emergency office.”

Andrew goes back to school on Thursday, less than seven months after the deadly shooting at his school.

“I’m not necessarily nervous,” says Andrew. “I’m more open minded, because it will definitely be a new atmosphere than it has been these last few years.”

Marshall County Schools Superintendent Trent Lovett says he’s feeling a little anxious heading into the first day of school. “You hope and you pray that things go safely, and everyone makes it back through the school year, and things get back to whatever our new normal is going to be,” says Lovett.

Starting now, Lovett says, they’re changing up the routine. That begins with a ban on backpacks for middle and high school students and size restrictions on purses and laptop bags, which Lovett says is the same protocol as the Kentucky Derby.

Elementary kids can still carry backpacks, but only if they’re clear or mesh.

Gym bags at the high school and both middle schools now have to go through metal detectors, which were installed on Monday. Lovett says students will have to get used to walking through them as well. “Does that mean that that’s going to be the cure-all? No, it doesn’t,” he says. “I certainly hope we’re a harder target, but I can’t say that it would be impossible.”

“They’re definitely taking all the necessary precautions to make us feel safe,” Andrew says.

“I feel like we’re in a better place now than before January 23,” says Marshall County Sheriff Kevin Byars.

Byars says for the last 20 years there’s been one resource officer responsible for all nine schools in the district, but that’s changing this school year. Starting Thursday, Byars says, there will be an officer at each middle school, two officers at the high school, and another officer floating between the high school and elementary schools.

“There’s no way to prevent 100 percent, but we can make it as difficult as we possibly can for another event like this to happen. And I think that’s what we’re doing by putting our resource officers in place,” says Byars.

Deputy J.T. Coleman has been in law enforcement for 28 years. He’s now one of four new school resource officers working in the school district. “I see this as something I can do for a long time,” says J.T. “I see me being able to enjoy my job every day at the school. I see me being able to make a difference.”

J.T.’s already done that for one student. “He’s my father,” says Andrew.

While some students are embarrassed to see their parents at school, Andrew says he is relieved.

“Him being here will definitely provide a sense of security, just because he’s such an experienced officer and knows what to do in any scenario,” says Andrew.

J.T. was one of the first on-scene after the shooting. He was willing to put his life on the line that day, and Andrew says his dad couldn’t hesitate to do it again.

“Still to this day, I always think about it,” says Andrew. “It just doesn’t seem like that would ever happen to a town like this. It’s just hard to believe that something like that would happen, but that’s how that day went.”

Andrew is about to start his senior year. The school is his turf, now a harder target.

Renovations are happening right now at the high school and at Sharpe Elementary School. Once complete, Lovett says it will help better control incoming traffic, visitors, and late arrivals.

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