Amid renewed public anxiety about school safety, Corinth School District Superintendent Lee Childress talked about a range of measures Thursday evening.
A crowd of citizens attended the meeting of the district’s board of trustees, which included talk of school resource officers, single points of entry and increased counseling, among other efforts. Ward 1 Alderman Chris Wilson also briefly addressed the board.
The district recently added David Scott Derrick as a resource officer at Corinth Middle School. Bryon Parker is the officer at Corinth Elementary School. Interviewing continues for an officer for CHS, and Childress said the district will likely hire a fourth to be stationed at the forthcoming C-Tech facility at the former East Corinth campus.
Two of the three initially hired officers did not stay, and the district has struggled to find others in a challenging staffing time for law enforcement.
Childress said a misperception developed that the school officers are not armed. They do, in fact, carry a gun, stun gun and spray, and have essentially the same authority as a constable on the campus and within 500 feet of the campus.
The officers will participate in advanced rapid response training in July. Faculty and staff will participate in active shooter training as part of professional development at the beginning of the school year.
While the district now has its own police department, coordination continues with the Corinth Police Department, and Childress said there would be no question about who is in charge during an active shooter response.
“It is our agreement that the Corinth Police Department will be in charge of that particular issue,” he said. “They have far greater resources, far greater training. They are very familiar with our schools.”
The district is also working to reduce building entry points – “one of the best things you can do, but, yet, it’s one of the most difficult things,” said Childress.
It comes with the challenges of retrofitting buildings and the need for exit points in cases of emergencies like fires. The high school has the further complication of two separate buildings. The district is looking at adding fencing between the buildings while still allowing adequate exit points and emergency vehicle access.
Students are also accustomed to moving around more in the high school.
“We’re going to have to look at a policy that unless you are facing an emergency, you’re going to have to stay in class and you’re going to have to participate,” said Childress.
The superintendent met with Timber Hills Mental Health Services on Thursday about the services provided in the district. Since the pandemic, the schools are seeing increased social and emotional issues among students, and the district is asking for more help. Childress said Timber Hills committed to increase the number of therapists assigned to the schools.
“We are also exploring other ways that we can provide mental health services to our students and also to families,” he said. “In many cases, it’s a family issue.”
The district is using internet filters and screen mirroring to monitor student activity for red flags. Some safety measures are not disclosed publicly.
Alderman Wilson, who had requested to be on the agenda, was given time to speak at the beginning of the meeting. He said he feels the district’s efforts on security are “still lacking.”
“That deal in Texas has sent me over the edge,” he said, and he worries that “it’s just a matter of time before something happens.”
Wilson previously addressed the school board about security in 2019.
“We’ve got to do a better job securing our schools for our kids and our teachers,” he said. “If action is not taken, we’re going to have to find something to get the job done. I don’t know what else to do. Two years is a long time to still be working on this when there’s all these shootings going on.”
School safety appeared as a separate item later on the agenda. Wilson walked out of the meeting after being told this would not include an open discussion with the audience.
“There is a process to go through to get on the agenda to submit what you want to talk about so that the board can be prepared to engage, if they want to, or take things under advisement,” said the district’s attorney, Bill Davis. “It’s not practical in this public setting to have everybody speak and have a huge dialog back and forth. The public is here to certainly hear and listen to and witness what discussions are had, and then there may be another forum later on outside the official meeting that we could do something like that.”
Childress offered several avenues of communication for anyone who has concerns.
“If there are things that you believe that we might not have looked at or we have not seen, there are certainly ways,” he said. “You can come to a board meeting. You can arrange a meeting with me. You can come to the monthly coffees or lunches we have started back. That’s where it is a one-on-one conversation with me with people that are gathered that can express their thoughts or express their issues.”
A letter from Childress and the trustees outlining the district’s safety measures was published in the June 4 edition of the Daily Corinthian.