The West Baton Rouge School District is part of a year-long pilot program that will see former Secret Service agents evaluate school security, educate teachers on crisis scenarios and provide the basic knowledge of psychological profiling so staff can determine potential school shooting threats before they develop.
The majority of the district’s teachers had their first training session Monday, where instructors from crisis management firm Firestorm Solutions — most former Secret Service agents and the like — taught them how best to react to an active shooter, the most effective way to hide and how to develop situational awareness.
Superintendent Wes Watts said being a pilot, the breakdown of how the program will unfold over the next year hasn’t been ironed out yet, but it will heavily focus on preventing mass tragedies in a school setting. Louisiana Workers' Compensation Corporation is funding the pilot at no cost to the school district because it’s a policyholder with the organization.
West Baton Rouge schools is the sole participant, but LWCC CEO Kristin Wall said she’s holding discussions with another area district that may soon be on board.
“We do safety programs for our policyholders regularly and we felt like with school systems it was critical. This is a societal need,” Wall said.
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She said Firestorm has created proprietary software that helps school administrators conduct and track behavioral assessments on at-risk students, and she hopes that knowledge will change the mindset to providing resources for students before they engage in behavior that creates a crisis like a school shooting.
“it’s a matter of observing all the time,” Wall said. “From Sandy Hook to all the things that followed in Florida from Parkland, and even Las Vegas, in every case there were these observed behaviors by multiple people, so one of the things this does is provide this knowledge base.”
Part of the training is intended to help the staff determine which approach to take when confronting an issue with a student, and how to navigate the difference between normal behavior and something that could result in danger to the student or others.
“The whole goal of this is to prevent the weapon from coming to school at all and that’s the bottom line, because once it’s there you’ve got a very, very different issue,” Wall said.
The pilot program comes at the same time as the district is executing a $90 million bond issue that will see every school in the district have construction or renovation work.
Watts said Firestorm personnel have begun looking over the plans for the new or remodeled buildings to bring their security features as close to the industry standard as possible. Minor changes like single-point entrances and specialty door or window panels can make a dramatic difference in accessibility for a threat, he said, but he hopes the program can couple infrastructure features and a more-aware staff to create a secure district.
“Somebody didn’t just wake up and go (carry out a school shooting),” he said. “It was planned, and it was a process they went through before they went out with the intention to hurt people. The key to preventing something happening is knowing our students and having those relationships and that’s always something we could do better.”
Firestorm personnel will be conducting assessments of the district's school buildings Tuesday and Wednesday to make recommendations on security, and Watts said another training session will be scheduled soon for the teachers who weren't able to attend Monday.