PADUCAH – Local 6 is asking school districts in our area how they plan to keep your children safe this year. One of the districts that has agreed to speak with us, Paducah Public Schools, says it is focusing on who is entering and leaving schools while working closely with the local police.
It’s easy to get lost at the start of a new school year. As your student walks through the halls starting later this week, District Security Director Robert Bryant is making sure strangers aren’t wandering along beside them.
“Just like an officer you see driving around the streets, I walk the hallways,” Bryant said. “It’s unfortunate that we have to, but it’s a product of our times. The biggest change is: 20 years ago, you could walk in any one of our schools through any exterior door there was.”
That’s no longer the case. Bryant is a retired Paducah police officer who took on the security director role nearly 20 years ago, which was just after the Heath High School Shooting. He said he remembers how different the job was back then.
“I had just started at (Paducah Tilghman High School). I see a kid walking up the hallway. There’s no one else in the hallway, and class is going on,” he said. “I stop him. I go ‘Hey, where are you supposed to be?’ He goes ‘What do you mean?’ I go ‘Where you supposed to be?’ He said ‘I’m going to McDonalds.'”
“He wasn’t even a student! He was just short-cutting through the school,” Bryant said. “I go ‘OK, this has got to stop.’ Shortly after that, we got all of our doors locked.”
Since then, the doors are locked, surviellance cameras are rolling, backpacks are kept in lockers, and visitors have to be let in.
But, what the district lacks are resource officers. Right now, only Bryant and one other officer patrol all the district’s schools.
While the school district doesn’t have many resource officers, the Paducah Police Department said its officers are constantly patrolling the area, driving around. And, if anything were to happen at the school, they say they could respond in just a few minutes.
“If a school calls, we’re there in just a matter of a few minutes,” Paducah Police Officer Gretchen Morgan said. “Sometimes maybe even seconds. We’re there every morning when school starts, so we are around the area very close.”
She said police officers are in the schools at least once a week. “If we’re out and about, we’ll just stop in and make sure everything is going OK. We eat lunch with the kids, just sit down with them and talk with them while they are changing classes and things like that.”
Bryant said he thinks in the future the school system may hire more resource officers to be in the schools. For now, they are doing what they can with what they have.
“We are not reinventing the wheel here,” said Bryant. “We are looking at what other school systems are doing right and what they are doing wrong and learning from that.”