Jay County school district rolls out safety upgrades, including giving teachers access to guns

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PORTLAND, Ind. — What started as a bold idea is now a reality for the Jay School Corporation.

The district has now placed several biometric safes with guns inside at each of its eight schools, moving forward with an idea announced in 2018.

A select group of teachers and staff at each school was vetted by the sheriff’s office and trained on how to use the guns. Now, that group has access to the firearms if an active shooter situation arises.

“If something happens, we just cannot get police in time to schools in a rural community our size,” Superintendent Jeremy Gulley said.

The gun safes are placed under 24/7 video monitoring which is overseen by the district and the sheriff’s office. The sheriff’s office is also alerted if the safes are opened or tampered with.

The addition of the safes and guns come as a part of a district effort to follow the guidelines set forth by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission report.

“We know we need to make schools more secure, but we don’t want them to feel like prisons,” Gulley said.

Gulley says the guns are to be used only as a last resort. To help increase school safety, the district has also added significant upgrades to each school, including dozens of security cameras, digital visitor sign-in systems, advanced “low key” metal detectors, and ballistic film over windows and doors.

The district has also increased their focus on student mental health, adding mental health professionals to every building. They also developed threat assessment teams, which are comprised of teachers, administrators, school resource officers, and mental health representatives.

“So you have the right people in the right room, using the right tool to identify these concerns, these threats or risks of behavior to get the right help in place,” Gulley said.

The district also has a “say something” anonymous reporting system. The system allows students to report threats to schools and students, or report any mental health concerns, such as a student who could potentially harm themselves. The system connects directly to the sheriff’s office and the district 24/7.

The sheriff’s office is able to monitor the video cameras in each school.

“It makes me sleep better at night, definitely,” said Sheriff Dwane Ford. “You gotta be plugged in and you gotta be plugged in quick.”

So far, Gulley says the community has by in large supported the safety measures the district has put forth. He adds that moving forward, the district will be eyeing to potentially add even more layers of security.

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