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Leon County Schools review safety changes as school year approaches

Posted at 6:19 PM, Aug 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-07 18:19:14-04

LEON COUNTY, Fla. — It's the final week of summer vacation for students and teachers in Leon County.

Before the bell rings for a new school year, teachers and administrators are getting a lesson in school safety updates.

"If you had told me 30 years ago when I started my career that we would be having conversations about an active shooter, I would've said 'you're crazy.' Unfortunately, today, it's our new normal," said Rocky Hanna, Leon County Schools Superintendent.

In preparation for a new school year, teachers and staff at Leon County schools learned about changes for the new year to increase safety, refresher courses on safety drills, and even participated in an active shooter drill.

"Safety has to be our number one priority now as school administrators," said Lewis Blessing, Montford Middle School Principal.

He says that while those concrete changes to school safety like fencing, cameras, and more guards is important, there's another element that shouldn't be forgotten.

"Building relationships with kids. If we're not doing that, they're not going to come tell us when something is not right in their lives or if their friend is having a hard time," said Blessing.

Every secondary student will get five hours of mental health services and every teacher will get training to assess mental health concerns in children this school year. And that's not the only new element.

This school year, Leon County teachers and administrators will use the Rave Panic Button App. It's a quick way to send for help in any type of emergency situation.

"We've reviewed many and we're putting a lot of faith in the choices that we've made," said John Hunkiar, LCS Chief of Safety and Security.

One choice that has left many talking is the decision to not participate in the Guardian Program.

"Statistics show if you have a gun in your house, the chances are someone is going to get shot accidentally and kill themselves or commit suicide," said Hanna. "Rarely does it kill an intruder. I have that same philosophy when it comes to our schools."

So while we won't see teachers armed in Leon County this school year, the district is working to keep every student safe.

Superintendent Hanna says they are spending about $4 million a year on school safety.