Parents, administrators talk school safety after gun found last week

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - About 60 people - parents, teachers, students and administrators - gathered in the Henry Clay High School cafeteria Wednesday evening, asking questions and voicing their concerns.

On their minds: school safety.

"What's to stop a kid from coming into the school with a loaded gun without it being detected other than a student tipping them off?" one parent asked.

The meeting came nearly a week after an incident that shook up some parents and students.

School leaders found a loaded gun on campus Thursday, Principal Paul Little Jr. said. Administrators said the student did not plan to use the gun at school, but had it for protection in their neighborhood.

Concerned parents and students criticized what happened and the school's communication about it. They vented their frustrations at a previously-scheduled District Safety Advisory Council meeting that night, leading administrators to schedule a special meeting for parents to voice their specific concerns and talk to leaders about what is being done to address them.

At the meeting Wednesday, school and district administrators tried to reassure them. They emphasized vigilance - including their tipline, having a new staff member at the front entrance, and doing rounds to make sure every door is locked.

"We're all having to up our game with school safety," Principal Little said.

Several parents asked questions about metal detectors, wanting to know why the school district has not implemented them. Some parents asked why they do not do random wanding with the handheld metal detectors, if they are not going to install metal detectors.

Some people who spoke acknowledged that some steps to keep kids safe have to come from home and the community.

"What can we do to break it out of that cycle so we don't have that environment of fear where these kids are coming in and they're afraid?" one man asked.

Tempers flared a couple of times as folks attending the meeting argued with each other about who or what was to blame for rumors that flew after the gun was found. But school and district leaders said they are already taking steps to improve communication.

And administrators again emphasized that one of the best ways to prevent things from happening is for students who see something to say something - like they did on Thursday.

"They want a safe environment, just like we want a safe environment for them," said Randy Peffer, Fayette Co. Public Schools' Chief of High Schools.

Superintendent Manny Caulk, who was not at Wednesday's meeting, has emphasized steps the school and district are taking to keep kids safe, such as adding staff at the doors, using handheld metal detectors more often, and launching an app to better communicate with parents.

Still, only about 40 percent of Henry Clay students showed up to class on Friday, administrators said.

In emails to parents, the principal said things have been back to normal this week.

School leaders said they will look into doing more lockdown drills, including at different times of day to include all students (including those who may spend part of their day at a technical school). They also said they will continue to spread the word about the tipline.

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