In the wake of the recent school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Lewis County Schools are prepared in the event of something similar occurring here.
According to Lewis County Chief Deputy Randy Hyre, all deputies in the county have the ability to gain access to every school in case of an emergency. Law enforcement currently practices one drill per year.
Superintendent Steve Casto said he has had meetings with law enforcement and Harrison County Schools Safety and Discipline Director, and projects focus on school safety are in the works. The schools are also working on increased communication between all entities, including schools and law enforcement.
“We will continue educating our staff and students on safety practices,” Casto said.
Special Education Director Dr. Carol Williams and high school supervisor Chris Derico are working with Community Care to expand mental health services in the school system.
“If the need is there, services will be provided,” Williams said. Medical staff will be trained in mental health issues.
Lewis County High School Junior Sky Nichols said classmates discussed the Florida shooting after it happened, and came up with different ideas to protect themselves, but she said she generally feels safe. LCHS Principal Derek Lambert said he and his staff receive yearly training on safety issues, and drills are conducted throughout the year.
LCHS Junior Morgan Brown added that the drills help her feel secure.
Peterson-Central Elementary School Principal Steve Hall said his school also conducts lockdown drills, along with weather and fire drills. He said even though his school is not necessarily on a main road, safety is always in the back of his and his staff’s mind.
“The doors are locked, and guests have to be buzzed in,” he said.
Since 1894, West Virginia has experienced four school shootings, resulting in 12 deaths. The first of these occurred in Parkersburg when an altercation between a group of boys took place and 15-year-old Willis Gardner and his eight year old brother were killed.
In 1898, in Charleston, six people were killed when a fight broke out during a school exhibition. It wasn’t until 1978, in St. Albans, when the next school shooting took place. A 14-year-old student killed his classmate, also 14.
In 2006, Douglas Pennington killed his two sons and himself while visiting Shepherd University.