Piedmont City Schools conduct intruder drills to teach reaction in an emergency
by Laura Johnson
Jan 17, 2013 | 5384 views |  0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sgt. Carolyn Durham of the Piedmont Police Department checks a locked classroom door Thursday during an intruder drill. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
Sgt. Carolyn Durham of the Piedmont Police Department checks a locked classroom door Thursday during an intruder drill. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
PIEDMONT — The Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre took place more than a month ago and 1,000 miles from Calhoun County, but it is still influencing the decisions local educators make.

To be certain Piedmont High School would know how to respond in case of a similar incident, students, teachers and administrators on Thursday conducted an intruder drill designed to teach them how to react to a gunman.

During the drill, Piedmont police officers also walked the hallways to evaluate how the students and teachers handled the exercise.

The officers evaluated similar intruder drills this month at each Piedmont school in an effort to help the district determine if its intruder response plan is adequate. The exercises have become commonplace in area schools, but officers aren’t usually on hand to evaluate the drills in Piedmont, according to school officials there.

“The state superintendent asked all schools to review their policies and their plans,” Piedmont schools Superintendent Matt Akin said. “We’ve done that and now we just want to make sure our students and staff are familiar.”

Though the drills have become common in the wake of the 1999 shootings at a Littleton, Colo., high school, this particular round of drills in Piedmont was prompted by school safety concerns that surfaced in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, Piedmont High School Principal Jerry Snow said.

“That’s why all the schools have put an emphasis on it,” Snow said.

Citing concerns about school security, administrators and police officers did not provide specific details about the schools’ safety plans Thursday, but Piedmont police Chief Steven Tidwell said the school’s drill went well.

“The procedures in place at the school systems are excellent plans and the police department greatly appreciates the great relationship and spirit of cooperation that we have with the schools,” Tidwell wrote in an email.

Tidwell declined to respond directly to questions at the school, but later sent an email with information about the drill.

The email stated that the school system regularly conducts drills, not just to train educators and students how to respond to intruders, but also to teach them how to respond to natural disasters such as tornadoes.

“With routine police visits to schools, frequent training and drills and constant reevaluation of procedures, the school system and the police department are proactive in our measures to make our schools safe and productive environments for our children to learn and grow,” Tidwell wrote.

Staff writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.

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