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Security fundraiser opens for Loyd Star

Another parent-led effort to beef up school security is underway at a Lincoln County school.

The Lincoln County School Board on Monday gave permission to Tammy Case Williford to begin fundraising efforts for the purchase of Barracuda Intruder Defense devices for installation in classrooms at Loyd Star Attendance Center, and Williford was on campus Wednesday counting doorways and taking measurements for the system. She plans to rally school parents and seek donations from friendly businesses to buy the devices, which are the same as those installed at West Lincoln after a similar effort earlier this year.

“We always seem to think it’s never gonna happen here, but it can always happen,” Williford said. “I don’t want to have to look back and say, ‘Oh, we should have done that.’ I’d rather be safe than sorry.”

The Barracuda system is a simple, steel locking device designed to protect classroom doors against unwanted openings. The flat, steel bars slide underneath doors and expand outward to grasp door frames and are locked into place with a pin, preventing the door from swinging open. The device was designed by military veteran Troy Lowe, who built it based on his experience as a law enforcement officer and active-shooter training instructor.

Williford — who has a high school junior, an eighth-grader and a second-grader enrolled at Loyd Star — kicked off the Loyd Star effort after consulting with West Lincoln parent Melaine Smith Daigle, who led the fundraising drive that resulted in almost $5,800 in donations and the purchase of 52 Barracuda units at West Lincoln earlier this year.

The Loyd Star fundraiser is in its first days, and it’s unclear how many devices will be needed to properly secure all the school’s classrooms. The Barracudas are around $110 each, and Williford has set up an account at Bank of Franklin under the name “Loyd Star DSS” to which concerned citizens may donate.

Daigle believes the Loyd Star community will have the cash in no time. The West Lincoln fundraiser hit $4,800 quickly, and an anonymous donor sent in the final $1,000.

“Everyone is concerned about our kids’ safety, and it’s a no-brainer for parents, grandparents and individuals in the community who want to donate money to help,” she said. “Everyone was willing to jump on board, and so were local businesses. Raising the money was easy. I’m excited for Loyd Star.”

Daigle encouraged parents at other schools who are interested in fundraising for security to contact her via Facebook for advice.

West Lincoln Principal John Shows said he’s satisfied with the 52 Barracudas in place at his school, most of which are mounted on the wall behind classroom doors for easy access. He said school officials tested the devices during summer lockdown drills and found they take around 10 seconds to deploy and stood up to pressure.

“I had a couple of my coaches, bigger guys, try to open the doors, and they couldn’t get in,” Shows said. “We used them once and they worked well. Even if it gives you two or three more minutes, that’s extra protection for your students.”

Loyd Star principal Robin Case supports Williford’s fundraiser and said all her teachers would receive training on how to use the devices if it is successful.

“School budgets are very tight. There’s never, in my knowledge, been any money dedicated for this, and we’re very fortunate to have parent organizations who are willing to step in and help us,” she said.

The school board has taken no action on security in recent months.

Superintendent Mickey Myers said back in March security analyses of all four county schools were being conducted, and administrators attended a seminar by the Mississippi Department of Education’s Safe and Orderly Schools division during summer training.

There was discussion among the board about the possibility of purchasing Barracudas for Bogue Chitto, Enterprise and Loyd Star when members voted 5-0 to accept the devices at West Lincoln, but the board has not adopted or amended any security policies this year.

“The security analysis is always an ongoing process,” Myers said. “We’ve had several agencies involved in recent months in assessing and providing training to maximize the safety of our schools. With the staunch support we have at all four of our schools, Bogue Chitto and Enterprise may follow suit. Regulations do not prohibit budgeting and purchasing equipment to enhance safe and orderly schools, but with equitable funding being a catchphrase now, we’ll monitor the involvement of patrons on those campuses.”