Westside Tragedy Leads to Increase in Security

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) -- After ten years Region 8 is remembering the tragic events at Westside Consolidated School District where five people were killed by two young boys.  At that time there were very few security measures in place and now that has changed.

"The shooting just changed everything and changed the way schools look at the safety issues we have more of a crisis plan we have a crisis team," said Connie Tolbert.

Tolbert is one of the few left at the school who was there when the shooting happened and she has seen a lot of changes in the last decade.  Superintendent James Best is in his fourth year with the school and said one of the biggest improvements is the addition of the school resource officers.

"We have three officers that can respond in just a couple of minutes to any of our schools," said Superintendent Dr. James Best.

"They're there in case we need them to get them by radio immediately if some event happens and we need to get in contact with them.  It's a little different than it used to be.  You didn't have the SRO's when the shooting occurred so it's just a safer environment," said Tolbert.

The officers make it a point to get to know students and gain their trust.  That way they feel more comfortable letting the officers know if there is a problem.

The school has a lot of tools to protect students and staff including digital security.

Over the past several years they've added multiple security cameras throughout campus, that way they can monitor what's going on anywhere at all times.

"They're hooked into the computer network system and I can access the three campuses from my desktop in my office," said Craighead County Sheriff's Deputy Jamey Martin.

A photo badge system is also used for all employees that shows students who that person is and where they belong.  Dr. Best said this shooting, like others that have happened across the country, has had a profound impact on the way students are protected.

"It's a tragedy in its own that the school kind of lost a big part of its innocence.  There are things we have had to do to protect the safety of the campus that maybe doesn't get us the free access that we had in the past," said Best.

Another thing that the school does to train teachers is hold in service days where teachers are taught drills by the officers.

"Things change and we're all the time updating our security measures," said Martin.

But the memory of that tragic day lives on.