Educational Support Officer program already making impact on Clark County school safety

Newtown, Conn., may be over 600 miles away, but what happened there is still causing repercussions in the halls of Clark County schools.

A year after 26 students and teachers were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School, security measures at Northeastern High School remain heightened. It’s one of the 12 buildings Deputy Chad Eubanks now patrols regularly as part of the new Educational Support Officer (ESO) program.

Spearheaded by Clark County Commissioner Richard Lohnes, the program was created after the Sandy Hook shootings to allow for an armed officer in all Clark County Schools.

“I (asked) if there was a way … we could move some deputies around to the schools to give more visibility, more security, more safety,” Lohnes said at the program’s official roll-out in September.

About $198,000 was allocated out of the county’s general fund to purchase two new vehicles and equipment, and to provide the training and salaries for the two deputies. Several months into the program, Northeastern Principal Ally Thurman said students and parents are getting used to seeing a deputy patrolling their halls.

“Most of our students (here) are very comfortable with him here. They feel some extra security with him here and I think the safety of the students is the main concern,” she said.

After checking in with building staff, Eubanks makes daily checks of each of the high school’s doors to ensure they’re locked. On Friday, he found one near the South Vienna Preschool classroom that wasn’t secure. After fixing the problem, he alerted Thurman. Making sure no one can gain entry into the building except through the main entrance, which has a camera and requires the person to be buzzed in, is one of the new safety measures put in place this school year, said Dr. Lou Kramer, district superintendent.

Secure access has been added to all building doors in the district. This means that unless someone has a staff I.D., they can’t enter the building during school hours. Once inside, all adults must wear a staff I.D. and lanyard or one designated for visitors and substitutes. The lanyards are color-coded to make it easy to identify adults from a distance, Kramer said.

The high school has also installed security cameras in almost every hallway. Each camera can be monitored in Thurman’s office. Law enforcement can gain access to those cameras in the event of an emergency, allowing them to quickly identify the problem.

Eubanks has been “invaluable” after several threats were found written in bathrooms on school grounds. Although he patrols multiple schools, he’s been able to personally investigate each threat, boost security when necessary and answer questions, Thurman said.

Patrolling the halls is just one of Eubanks’ jobs. The sheriff’s office has also helped develop lockdown and safety plans for each of the buildings. Soon, Eubanks and Deputy Scott Cultice, another ESO, will provide districts with “A.L.I.C.E.” training — which stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate. The programs teach students and staff to get out of the building quickly in an active shooter situation, and fight back if they need to.

The biggest part of his job, Eubanks said, is being part of the school and someone kids can turn to for advice and help. Since becoming an ESO, he said he’s learned that listening to students is one of the easiest ways to solve problems. He said he’s also seen firsthand how teachers provide much more than classroom lessons.

“Not only do they educate our students, but they’re security, they’re teachers, they’re parents,” he said. “They are doing every thing and every role for their kids.”

By working together, Eubanks said he believes Clark County schools are safer.

“I think by far schools are the safest place for our kids to be,” Eubanks said. “Even with all the tragedies across the nation, they are still a great place of learning.”

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