School safety, gun control debates continue across country

KNOXVILLE—School safety remains a topic of concern and debate across public and private institutions. Thousands of people across the country have advocated for gun control and school safety, as part of a national campaign sparked by recent shootings like the one at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The reoccurence of school shootings across the country has led many schools to evaluate their safety procedures and emergency plans.

If Johnson University is ever placed in an emergency situation, there are plans set in place to ensure the safety of students and faculty. Each person on both the Johnson Tennessee and Florida campus has a role to play in ensuring the campus remains a safe and secure environment to live and learn.

“There is a plan in the background,” David Legg, JU dean of students said.

This plan includes the Nixle text messaging system.

“In an emergency, it would say ‘this is an emergency, what is happening, what you need to do, where you need to go and places to avoid,” he said.

The directions sent through the Nixle system will be based on the emergency response plan but will also be tailored to the particular situation at hand.

The recent shooting in Parkland, Florida has started a debate across the country about allowing teachers to carry guns. Johnson University, along with other private institutions, prohibits the carrying of firearms on campus.

There is a national debate surrounding how to best protect students from school shootings. Some suggest arming teachers to protect students, and others suggest implementing school violence intervention strategies.

The U.S House of Representatives passed the Students, Teachers and Officers Preventing  School Violence Act of 2018. The STOP act was the first school safety measure to pass in the House since the shooting. The bill passed March 14 and is now being considered by the Senate.

The STOP School Violence Act is a bill to help schools stop violence before it happens by providing grant funding for resources focused on early intervention and school safety infrastructure updates.

If passed, the STOP School Violence Act will provide grant funding for evidence-based training of students, teachers, officers and local law enforcement officers. This training is designed to give students and teachers the ability to recognize and respond quickly to warning signs of school violence.

The STOP School Violence Act will also include funding for:

  •  The development and operation of anonymous reporting
    systems for threats of school violence, including mobile
    telephone applications, hotlines and internet websites.
  • The development and operation of school threat assessment and intervention
    teams that may include coordination with law enforcement agencies and school personnel; specialized training for school officials in responding to mental health crises.
  • Placement and use of metal detectors, locks,
    lighting and other deterrent measures.

According to the congressional record of the bill, grant funding may not be used to provide firearms or firearms training.

One of the debates is whether to arm teachers to aid in protecting students or to entrust local law enforcement and current school safety measurements and prevention strategies.

Legg said that JUTN has developed strong relationships with local law enforcement, ensuring that officers are familiar with the campus.

“In the case of an active shooter, it is important to appropriately respond to law enforcement,” Legg said. “The university maintains good relationships on an ongoing basis with the Knox County Sheriff’s department. It is an ongoing thing on keeping these things [emergency plans] up to date.”

The Florida Campus Safety and Security Committee meets at least quarterly to review the Emergency Management Plan and any safety and security concerns, about the university.

If an active shooter or an armed civilian comes on campus,  university officials encourage students and faculty to implement the Run, Hide, Fight method developed and copyrighted by the City of Houston and approved for public use by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“This Run, Hide, Flight— I want students to know it’s a good thing,” Legg said.” I don’t want students to dwell on it, but it’s about being aware and being prepared.

God gave us a life to live it, but there is nothing wrong with knowing a simple thing like Run, Hide, Fight.”

The Run.Hide.Fight response to an active shooter situation includes the following:

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Run, Hide, Fight procedures as cited from the City of Houston.

JUTN implements the following:

  • Nixle Communication Service.
  • Around-the-clock campus patrols by campus security and an outside security company.
  • Limited access to residence halls (limited to students, approved campus staff and guests).
  • Monitoring of all incoming and outgoing traffic by campus security and an outside security company.

JUFL implements the following:

  • Nixle Communication Service.
  • Keycard access to all exterior doors.
  • Controlled access to campus entries.
  • Residential entrance gate to campus closed and locked at night.
  • Subcontracted, professional Campus Security personnel with day-time and night-time shifts.
  • Campus Safety student workers.
  • Security cameras placed in strategic locations around campus.

Legg said that Johnson University is working diligently to provide the safest learning and living environments around in the midst of gun control debates.

View the Ready Houston Run, Hide, Fight video below for additional safety information.

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