Sheriff works to employ proactive, rapid response to school safety issues
Union County Sheriff Scott Harvel says that his office is working to be as proactive as possible when it comes to preventing possible tragedies from unfolding at local schools. The goal is to respond as rapidly as possible to any potential incidents.
The sheriff reported at a recent Union County Board of Commissioners meeting that he and other sheriff's office personnel have been spending a lot of time in local counties as part of an ongoing effort to keep everyone safe.
Concerns about school safety are a top priority as people have witnessed shooting tragedies which occurred at schools in Kentucky and Florida.
Harvel said that the sheriff's office responded to an issue which surfaced on social media during February.
The sheriff posted on Facebook on the night of Feb. 21 that:
"There is a viral post spreading across social media of a screen shot by a person identified as 'Ray Andres' indicating that there is going to be a shooting at 'SHS' tomorrow.
"Upon investigation this is a nation wide post that originated out of the State of Ohio, and has spread fear in many schools across the country using the acronym 'SHS.'
"Information that was received by the Union County Sheriff's Office indicated that the threat was to Shawnee High School.
"Upon investigation into this matter, it has been determined that there is no credible threat to Shawnee High School or any Union County Schools.
"The Union County Sheriff's Office is continuing to monitor the post and investigate the incident.
"Again no credible threat exists to Shawnee High School."
On the Thursday following the incident, the sheriff posted deputies at the high school to offer assurances about safety and to meet with students as needed.
Harvel continues to work to enhance intruder and active shooter training programs in the schools as a way to prepare for possible violent situations.
A program called ALICE is made available to local school personnel. ALICE stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate.
The ALICE Training Institute explains on its website that the program offers classes which "provide preparation and a plan for individuals on how to more proactively handle the threat of an aggressive intruder or active shooter event."
Union County Sheriff's Office Deputy Eric Ralls is a trained ALICE instructor.
The seemingly all-encompassing presence of social media presents a special challenge and a need for around-the-clock monitoring of potential threats.
The sheriff's office offers protection 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for the people of Union County.
However, providing that service, has become more challenging as the sheriff's office, and other local law enforcement agencies, look to fill vacancies with trained personnel.
Harvel said that the sheriff's office has very dedicated personnel who continue to work hard to keep everybody safe.