The Alabama Association of School Resource Officers (TAASRO) awarded Chelsea Middle School its Safe Schools Award in recognition of the effective implementation of the school’s safety plan during a recent crisis. Chelsea Middle School Principal Bill Harper and Shelby County Sheriff’s Deputy David Morrow were also honored with Valor Awards for their actions during the incident last February involving an armed gunman.
Presented during TAASRO’s annual summer conference, Mr. Harper said the awards are a testament to his entire school staff and the community agencies that responded to the school that day.
“These awards belong to our entire community,” Mr. Harper said. “Within minutes of this incident occurring we had help here to assist us, from our Central Office staff to our local law enforcement and emergency rescue agencies that we partner with regarding our school safety plans. We have had a tremendous amount of support from our parents and our community members who have told me they are proud to be a part of this school.”
Superintendent Randy Fuller praised Harper and local law enforcement agencies for their actions to protect students and their consistent preparation for effective crisis response.
“Though it is our desire to never encounter an emergency affecting Shelby County students or staff, our school leaders train very intentionally to be prepared and to take effective action on behalf of those in harm’s way should an emergency arise,” Fuller said. “We are all thankful that the safety plans and preparations at Chelsea Middle School were successful, and we are grateful to local law enforcement and the other first responders.”
Harper said he and his staff take school safety plans very seriously. They hold emergency drills on a regular basis – a component he says is paramount to the development of effective safety plans within his school. In fact, his staff practiced a lockdown drill focused on emergencies during school dismissal time only a day before the incident occurred.
“Schools have got to be prepared,” Harper said. “We were prepared that day. We had just practiced this same type of scenario the day before. As a result, our staff knew what to do and our students knew what to do. That made all the difference. ”
The Shelby County School District is continuing to expand its school safety methodology through the Safe Schools Initiative – a comprehensive plan and partnership developed to provide sustainable funding for safety initiatives in Shelby County schools. The initiative includes several provisions, including valuable training sessions for faculty and staff, professional assessment of local school safety plans, collaboration with local law enforcement agencies, and improvements to building architecture.
“Ensuring student safety is a group effort,” Fuller said. “We are grateful for our community of partners who have shown and continue to show their commitment to the safety of our students.”