GAINESVILLE - In light of recent safety incidents at Flowery Branch High School and Chestatee Academy, the Hall County School System is taking steps to clarify its internal safety protocol.
According to Hall County School Superintendent Will Schofield, changing times have dictated the need to review school system policies, including how threats are made known to the public: "How we communicate with our staff, and with our parents, and with our community, and with our students...again, it's something that we're just having to kind of refresh our plan on a daily basis."
Schofield also said that the rapid expansion of social media platforms may lead individuals to expect the school system to instantly notify all students and the public in the event any threat is made, but that this was never a part of proper protocol and was unlikely to change.
He added: "What we have to do is continually look at best practices, work very closely with law enforcement and notify our public when there's a need that we can justify."
In a statement made available to local media, Superintendent Schofield presented the internal safety protocol as follows:
· School officials work hand-in-hand with law enforcement to ensure that best practices are always followed and that related information is disseminated at appropriate times.
· Individual discipline and safety issues are being handled continuously. It is not our practice to disseminate the specifics of those instances beyond the professional staff and families directly involved.
· When we are faced with misinformation being disseminated such as the recent Flowery Branch High School incident, we will immediately provide as much accurate information as is necessary and allowed by law. In these instances, we believe staff, families and our community have a right to accurate information, allowing them to make informed personal decisions.
· Situations under investigation where there is no immediate threat are not made public. The recent Chestatee Academy incident is an example. In this case: 1) There was no evidence of any community misinformation or concern; and 2) An investigation was underway in which the individual(s) suspected were already identified and being interviewed by law enforcement. Suspected individual(s) were immediately suspended and prohibited from being on Hall County School District property. Additionally, law enforcement and school officials were notified. With the cooperation of our sheriff's department, we were able to address this incident between 8:00 PM and midnight, so school hours were not affected.
Schofield said that even in the wake of these recents events, it was important for all involved parties to maintain a proper focus on the countless positive things that take place in county classrooms on a daily basis.