State report: Local schools safe

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 23, 2015

On the heels of a stabbing spree ina Swedish school and more than 50 total school shootings in the U.S. this year, there have been some question about how safe local schools really are.

Although school officials don’t have much control over incidents that occur from the outside other than following protocol to protect students, inside the schools, there are relatively few incidents out of the norm.

According to the 2015 annual school incident report, which is designed by the State of Alabama to report occurrences at schools and school-sponsored activities serious enough to result in:

• the in-school, out-of-school or expulsion of one or more students;

• filing of an official report with law enforcement;

• placement in an alternative program;

• placement in an interim educational setting;

• removal by hearing officer due to possibility of injury to self or others or;

• corporal punishment.

Countywide among the three systems there are more than 6,200 students enrolled, and last school year only two students were referred to law enforcement, according to the report.

That incident occurred at Straughn High School and involved students in grades 10-12. Complaints were filed under the category of threats and intimidation.

Covington County Schools Superintendent Shannon Driver said every school has a safety plan on how to deal with different instances.

“And Rick Messick, our safety supervisor, heads up coordinating our training,” he said. “Generally speaking, we have low incidents because of good students and parents. We can attribute that to a lot of good parenting, good school administrators and teachers. They really do a good job using their training.”

Additionally, Driver said school resource officers – law enforcement officers placed in schools – help with incidents as well.

At Fleeta Junior High School, incidents included defiance and disruptiveness, a few fights, some profanity and threats and intimidations.

At Florala High School, incidents included defiance, a single drug possession, a few fights, a couple occasions of profanity and a single possession and use of tobacco.

At Pleasant Home School, incidents included defiance and disobedience, some fighting, a few instances of profanity, a few sexual offenses and a couple of threats and intimidations.

Red Level High School incidents included a couple of assaults and other incidents resulting in a state defined disciplinary action.

Red Level and Straughn elementary schools only had reports of “other incidents” resulting in a state defined disciplinary action.

Straughn Middle School included defiance and disobedience, a few fights and one instance of profanity.

SHS included defiance report, a few fights, one episode of gambling, and one instance of threats and intimidation.

WS Harlan included one assault, defiance of authority and two threats and intimidation.

At Opp City Schools, Superintendent Michael Smithart said it’s their goal to have safe learning environments.

“I feel very strongly that we are able to do that,” he said. “We have been very blessed in that we don’t have some of the problems that you hear so much about in other parts of the country. I think that is indicative of all schools in Covington County. It’s important to remember that when you have thousands of young people, you will occasionally have to deal with a few infractions, but for the most part our students are well-behaved and our schools provide a safe learning environment.”

Opp High School saw incidents that included defiance, disorderly conduct, some fighting, two under the category of larceny, theft, robbery and possession of stolen property; some profanity, one tobacco possession and a few tobacco use.

Opp Middle School saw some defiance, disobedience, disorderly conduct, a few fights, one knife possession and a few profanity incidents.

Opp Elementary School saw a few defiance, disobedience, disorderly conduct cases and a single profanity case.

Andalusia High School and Andalusia Elementary School saw the least infractions.

Those included defiance, disobedience, drug possession and tobacco use at the high school and defiance and harassment at the elementary school.