By Donna Thornton/News Editor
While events of Dec. 14 kept many people glued to the news over the weekend – or making an effort to avoid it – those in charge of Etowah County’s schools and keeping them safe did more than follow the story. They met and discussed ways to improve the safety of students and staff in county schools.
Etowah County school and law enforcement officials came before the Etowah County Commission during the Tuesday (Dec. 18) work session to talk about school security.The officials had met during the weekend to discuss the issue before students returned to school after the murders of 20 elementary school children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn.
Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin suggested forming a task force to look at security at the county schools.
After a meeting between the sheriff’s department, the district attorney, commissioners, school board members, some members of the local legislative delegation and others, the officials officials said a task force would be formed to look at security in the schools and at the courthouse.
“All stakeholders involved in the safety and security of Etowah County children and citizens will be invited to join the task force,” Sheriff’s Department Public Information Officer Natalie Barton said in a statement issued after the meeting.
When discussion of security at the schools began, Etowah County Commission President Jeff Overstreet stopped talks to suggest that discussion be conducted behind closed doors.
He said he’d heard the previous night that the sheriff and school officials wanted to bring the issue before the commission and he’d checked on the specifics of the state open meetings law, which would allow the commission to legally conduct a closed session to discuss security matters.
Overstreet said he did not want discussions of existing security to jeopardize any of the county’s schools or students.
The security topic was added to the agenda for the Tuesday’s commission meeting, and after calling for the executive session during the meeting, the commissioners and the group of officials gathered and talked for about 50 minutes before reconvening the commission’s meeting.
Etowah County Commissioner Carolyn Parker said she appreciated everyone who attended the commission meeting for making the county’s youth their top priority. She added that she believes officials have to look at mental health issues, as well as security issues.
“Maybe a task force is needed for that, too,” Parker said.