If a crisis were to happen at a Franklin school, officials want to have a solid plan for what they would tell parents and when.

That communication plan is one of several safety and security issues Franklin school officials are considering. After the most recent school shooting, local school officials know that safety and security at their children’s schools are on parents’ minds.

Those topics were the focus of a meeting at Franklin Community High School, where school and police officials worked to address parent concerns about safety in light of recent school shootings across the country.

Story continues below gallery

Click here to purchase photos from this gallery

The meeting is hosted each spring to give parents an opportunity to get information and give feedback on safety issues, Superintendent David Clendening said.

“We always want parent input,” he said.

At the meeting last week, school administrators and police explained what steps are being taken to keep students safe and took questions from parents concerned about school safety and bullying. About 20 parents attended the Thursday evening event, which included a presentation and then a chance for them to ask questions and give their own comments.

State law now mandates that schools have drills to teach students what to do in an active shooter situation, the school is working with the city to have a larger police presence in its schools and school officials are considering updating how they communicate to parents during a crises, Clendening said.

Franklin schools have officers walking the hallways on occasion, and a permanent school resource officer will be on site at the start of the next school year, with the eventual goal of having one officer for elementary, middle school and high school students, Clendening said.

For the past several years, the Franklin Police Department has been encouraging officers to stop by schools when they have a break from responding to crimes and accidents. The officers walk through the hallways and interact with students, building relationships with them and helping kids understand that police aren’t people they have to fear, deputy chief Jim Hoeing said.

While students were hesitant at first, they have since warmed up to the officers, which creates a situation where they’ll feel comfortable sharing information when they need to, he said.

One option that had been discussed nationally that the school isn’t considering is arming teachers, Clendening said.

The amount of training and expertise required to respond to an active shooter situation is more than teachers would be able to obtain, and, with police only minutes away from all of the schools, it’s best to rely on them should that type of situation occur, he said.

“We will rely on the experts in terms of armed security,” Clendening said.

When talking to students about school shootings and planning drills, the key is to balance giving students the information they could need to protect themselves with not making them feel unsafe in school, Hoeing said.

What they talk to students about are the decisions they may have to make, such as whether to run and get away from the school to a safe area or choosing a spot to hide and wait out the situation, Franklin Community High School Principal Steve Ahaus said.

The information given to students for the drills also varies widely by their age, said Deb Brown-Nally, the executive director for curriculum, instruction and assessment.

Franklin schools also are looking into potential changes to how they communicate with parents if a crises does occur, looking at when, how and what messages would get out to parents, said Jeff Sewell, the director of operations.

Parents also raised concerns about bullying, and whether school officials are doing enough to address the issue, since Franklin schools only reported 17 instances of bullying to the state last year.

The challenge, according to Clendening, is that the school is restricted to following the state’s definition of bullying, and that the numbers reported by schools across the state are also low.

But student misconduct is always addressed, regardless of whether that misbehavior would be officially classified as bullying or not, he said.

Author photo
Jacob Tellers is a reporter at the Daily Journal. He can be reached at jtellers@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2702.