Undercover: Too easy to get in our schools? - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Undercover: Too easy to get in our schools?

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Bill Bond was principal of Heath High School in Kentucky in 1997 when a Freshman student shot and killed three girls, and injured five others, in the school's lobby. He says he understands locking school doors won't prevent shooting tragedies, but it's a common-sense safety step.

"The most valuable asset we own should be behind locked doors. Those are our children," he told us as he visited Millsaps College in mid-January to address school safety.

Do our local districts lock school doors?

Using a hidden camera, the WLBT News team visited nine schools we won't name in the three largest metro area school districts, and found mixed results.

In Madison County, the front doors to one school were unlocked. Our reporter walked in and passed by personnel in the lobby. No one stopped us. At the second and third Madison County schools we visited, the front doors were locked, but we easily entered the office area. We were not stopped by office personnel for the few seconds we were inside either school. At one of the schools, a security guard approached our reporter as she got back into the car, and asked what our business was there.

In Rankin County, our employee walked into one school and started down a hallway. A teacher stopped us and asked our reporter if she had a visitor pass. The teacher then directed the reporter to the office.

At the second and third schools, the reporter walked in, proceeded down hallways, and exited without being stopped.

It was a different story in Jackson Public Schools. Security measures at two of the three schools we visited prevented us from walking the halls. In fact, one school we visited was completely locked down. The front doors can't be opened unless the visitor buzzes the office first.

The front doors at the second school were also locked. We entered the office door, but couldn't get by the staff member who told us to sign in before going any further.

But the third Jackson school had unlocked front doors. Our reporter walked down a hallway. A staff member on a walkie talkie was dealing with an unruly student. Our reporter walked back toward the front door, where a security officer was also dealing with the student. No one questioned us.

"The third school is a concern for me," says Chief Gerald Jones, who heads up JPS's Campus Enforcement. He's pleased to learn security measures worked at two of the three schools we visited. 

Chief Jones says expectations are for a staff member to be at the entranceway watching who comes in.

"We do have security measures that include someone at least acknowledging your presence, asking you to sign in," Jones explains.

Chief Jones says all schools in Jackson have the ability to lock up tight.

"Some of our schools are locked all day, every day. Some have points of ingress and egress depending upon the age of the children, the need for access from the outside," Jones confirms.

Security measures at JPS are always being updated.

Madison County Superintendent Ron McGehee says schools built after 2002 have safer designs, and the front doors are locked. He says safety is a priority, and the district continues to explore keeping students and staff members safe. The document below offers Superintendent McGehee's full statement.

[Superintendent McGehee's full statement PDF.doc ]

WLBT has learned that Rankin County schools have adopted new security measures in the past few weeks, but we have not gotten any specifics on what those measures are. 

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