EAST BATON ROUGE PARISH, La. (WAFB) - After the 9News Investigators uncovered the 1,833 weapon-related incidents reported in schools statewide in 2018, new numbers requested from the state show most of those incidents were reported in the East Baton Rouge Parish School System (EBRPSS).
Each day when the school bell rings and kids prepare for another day of learning, some parents are now concerned over their safety.
"It's surprising and it makes me scared. I'm just frightened to even know that," said grandmother, Margie Lee.
“As a concerned parent, I just pray every day that when my son goes to school, he comes back alive,” parent, Andrea Ennis added.
According to numbers requested from the state by WAFB’s Scottie Hunter, EBRPSS reported 120 weapon-related incidents in 2018. Out of those incidents, 44 involved weapons that were thrown, 39 were with firearms or knives, 20 were committed with weapons prohibited by federal law, another 11 involved small blades, and six were with weapons that were illegally carried and discharged on campus.
“We report everything and we’re not going to hold back anything,” said EBRPSS superintendent, Warren Drake. Despite those numbers, Drake says area schools are safe.
"There's a lot of things we've done to make sure our schools are safe," he added.
He says they have worked to increase safety at each of the more than 80 schools across the district.
“When a person walks into a school, they have to go through a person before they get into a main part of the school. Every one of our schools is being redone to make sure that we have that,” said Drake.
Drake also says they have brought on new technology and training to ensure if something does happen at one of their schools, everyone is prepared.
“Every person in the school has opportunities where we go through training on active shooters. We’re doing that right now through partnership with LSU,” said Drake. “We have a RAVE app where every employee can actually push a button on their phone on that app and call security.”
In 2018, one area the superintendent and local law enforcement said they wanted to improve was posting a resource officer at every school in the district. WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked the superintendent how close the district is to having additional resource officers in every school.
“I think that’s a goal of ours. It’s a money thing,” Drake added. “We don’t want to say that money’s going to stop that. We now have every school covered, but we don’t have a school resource officer in every school all day, every day.”
Most of those school resource officers come from the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office. Currently, EBRSO spokeswoman, Casey Rayborn Hicks, tells WAFB there are 15 to 20 deputies stationed at schools on any given day throughout the district. One of those schools has an officer from the Baton Rouge Police Department. She adds that 35 deputies are trained to serve as resources officers and the sheriff’s office has offered to pay for additional benefits for those officers if the school system would pay for salaries. Hicks says starting pay for an EBRSO deputy is around $42,000 per year.
“We wanted to see how it would work and it’s been beneficial to him, the students, and the teachers, so it’s a good thing,” said BRPD Sgt. L’Jean McKneely.
Sergeant L’Jean McKneely says for about a year now, they have dedicated one officer to be stationed each day at McKinley High School. He believes it’s making a difference and says eventually, their goal is to add more officers in other schools. Even with more resources, he and the superintendent say it still takes a joint effort to prevent what’s being concealed inside the classroom.
“We take the approach of working together as a whole and not just putting it just not he parent or just on the teacher or just on the school,” said McKneely. “We’re doing the right things. We want to make sure our schools are safe and we’re doing everything possible to make sure that happens,” Drake added.