December 19, 2012
Julia Roberts Goad
WILLIAMSON — In the wake of the school shooting in Connecticut, school systems and parents are taking a hard look at the security in schools. Mingo County Schools have developed a Crisis Management Plan, which has stringent rules governing how people are admitted into the schools.
However, a parent at Riverside Elementary School said she witnessed a door left open, giving access to the building to anyone. There were no school personnel in sight at the entrance according to her.
In 2008, the West Virginia School Building Authority approved grant funding for the installation of controlled access entrances in all schools in Mingo County.
Each door to a school stays locked, and is equipped with an intercom/security camera system. When a visitor wants to enter the building, they must press a button and speak to a person inside the building, who unlocks the door.
However, when Bernadean Perry said she took her son to school on Monday, the very next school day after the atrocious events in Connecticut, she did not have to ask for permission to enter Riverside Elementary.
“There was a person, who I assume was school personnel, about 30-feet away from the front door,” Perry said. “I walked past her, and was about halfway up the walkway to the front door, when the door opened and a woman came out, propped it open with a wedge of wood. Then she turned around and went back in the building, leaving the door wide open.”
Perry said she took her fourth-grader in the school and saw the person who had opened the front door go into the office and sit down. She asked where the principal was, and was told she was on the phone.
Perry said she took her child into the school and left, at which time there were still no adults around the front door, which was still open.
“I thought to myself that that wasn’t right, and grabbed my cell phone and took a picture,” she said. Perry later posted that photo on a social media website.
The Daily News contacted Mingo County Superintendent Randy Keathley, who referred the matter to Riverside principal Paula Brown.
Brown said the door was left open in the morning as students were arriving, but that school personnel were always at the entrance.
“We always have an adult on duty at the front door,” Brown said. “Usually it is myself or the assistant principal.”
She said people who enter the school must be “buzzed in,” meaning they must use the intercom system to enter the building.
However, Perry said there was no adult at the front door Monday.
“There was no one there on duty,” Perry said. “Anyone could have walked into that school.”
The County-Wide Council on Productive and Safe Schools, which is made up of representatives from police agencies, Mingo County Emergency Services, Mingo County Public Defender’s and Prosecuting Attorney’s Ofñce, as well as employees of other state and local agencies and Mingo County Schools has developed a plan for each school designed to “ensure the safety of students and staff at that particular school,” according to a statement from Mingo County Schools.
“The County-Wide Council on Productive and Safe Schools works diligently to assist the school administrators with helpful information and professional knowledge to achieve readiness in an emergency situation,” a statement from Mingo County Schools Emergency Operators Officer Tom Damron said. “With the help and teamwork of the agencies mentioned, and the time dedicated by experienced and knowledgeable individuals, Mingo County Schools will continue to keep abreast of up-to-date security measures and interventions.”