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Security devices OK’d by board — School board wants policy on device usage

The Lincoln County School Board has accepted privately-donated security devices for one of its schools, and now has the summer to figure out a policy for their use and how to equally shore-up the other three campuses.

School board members on Monday voted to accept a donation of 52 Barracuda Intruder Defense Systems for use in classrooms at West Lincoln Attendance Center, but not without some hesitation and discussion on procedures for their use and storage. Some board members also questioned whether it was fair for West Lincoln to be the only school with the devices and whether the Barracuda system is even the right device to use.

“My concern is it would be seen as favoring one school over another if we accept this, and I’m also wondering — could the students be able to barricade the door if the teacher steps out of the room?” asked District 5 board member Joanna Posey. “I think they should have a plan in place that says how they’re stored and who should have access to them before school starts.”

The Barracudas — a simple steel locking device designed to secure classroom doors against unauthorized opening — were purchased for approximately $5,700 after the money was raised in a community-driven fundraiser led by West Lincoln parent Melaine Smith Daigle. Donations came in from around Lincoln County and even out-of-state, and an unnamed donor wrote a check for the final $1,000 when the fundraiser was close to its goal.

Daigle said she started the fundraising campaign in response to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14 this year. She said she wanted to lead the way because a private effort could cut through red tape and deliver the Barracudas faster than a school district-led effort.

“I felt like something needed to be done to protect our students, faculty and administrators,” Daigle said. “The device is not the answer, but I feel like it’s one more layer of protection, and that gives me peace of mind as a parent.”

But the donation of the Barracudas has put the school board in an awkward spot. None of the other three schools have seen parent-led security efforts start, and Superintendent Mickey Myers said Monday security assessments are ongoing at all four campuses.

He hopes to get clarification on the Barracudas and other recommended security measures from the Mississippi Department of Education’s Safe and Orderly Schools division, which will be presenting information at a seminar for school administrators over the summer.

“We’ll discuss this thoroughly. There’s a lot of information out there, and it’s always changing,” Myers said.

Myers said one possibility is the district furnishing Barracudas, or similar safety devices, for the other three schools. District business manager Sam Stewart said the devices cost Daigle’s fundraiser around $110 each, and he suspects the district could get them cheaper with a bulk order.

But board Vice President Ricky Welch questioned whether the Barracuda is the right tool for the job.

“People are trying to get the cart ahead of the horse a little bit,” he said. “It’s like the deal with a student already in the school — should the money be spent to keep people out of the school?”

Board President Diane Gill said the addition of Barracudas at West Lincoln is a starting point.

“There’s pros and cons for everything,” she said. “Cell phones are great, but they can be misused, too.”

The board voted 5-0 to accept the donated Barracudas.