School violence puts south Georgia schools on alert - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

School violence puts south Georgia schools on alert

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October 12, 2007

Lee County-  When it comes to threats of school violence, south Georgia schools leaders say the best prevention is communication. 

Wednesday's school shooting in Cleveland and another 14 year old with a massive arsenal in Pennsylvania have again raised an alert at schools. This week in Bainbridge a threat of violence on a bathroom wall at Bainbridge College lead to the arrest of 20 year old Pamela McGriff. School officials say these threats are taken very seriously but are also preventable if students speak up.

The halls at Lee County High School are full of chatter as classes change, but in that chatter if a threat was made, students say despite the consequences of tattling, they'd tell teachers.

"If they were making threatening comments, if it was like that, definitely someone would say something, yeah I know it wouldn't be hard," said Sarah Pearson, a senior at Lee County High School.

That's what school officials want to hear. In fact, it was students who came forward when two students took a loaded gun to the football game against Westover in September.

"We had a couple of students who came to us and said that they saw a person with something they shouldn't have obviously and that became our top priority, the security officers the administrators," said Kevin Dowling, Lee County High School Principal.

It's why Lee County took measures this year to install this glass box at the school's entrance, forcing visitors into the office before they enter the school and why they stop fights before they escalate.

"We may hear that two kids are about to fight each other and you know what, it's funny if we bring them in the office and get them to work it out, there's no fight that occurs. We can be very proactive if students will allow us to be," said Dowling.

Dougherty County School officials agree, but say parents need to be an important part of the mix.

"Parents need to not take for granted that they always know what their child is up to. Constant bedroom checks, book bag checks, if the individual is old enough to operate a vehicle that is assigned to that particular child they need to be mindful of what is in the vehicle at all times," said Chief Troy Conley, Dougherty County Schools Police.

They say it takes everyone, Albany Police, Dougherty County Police, Dougherty and the Lee County Sheriff Offices, and Leesburg Police working together, sharing information, to keep students safe.

Both Dougherty and Lee County School officials say they're on high alert for the potential of copy cat crimes after what's happened in Cleveland and Philadelphia.    

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