Prior to Thursday’s incident at Trigg County High School, many individuals made “right decisions” that ultimately prevented a grievous situation on campus. It began when the Trigg County Board of Education made their “right decision” to implement a security plan for the high school. The individuals responsible for hiring Principal Shannon Burcham mad the “right decision.” Mr. Burcham has great rapport with the high school students. They respect him for his accessibility and willingness to listen.
The anonymous student, who reported to Principal Burcham that someone on the school bus spoke about having a weapon and was bringing it to school, made the “right decision” and protected fellow students from potential harm. Cadiz Police Chief Hollis Alexander made the “right decision.” He hired, after his retirement, School Resource Officer Dave Colbert to protect the students. Officer Colbert initiated security programs in his former police department. He is a graduate of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Academy.
Several weeks ago, I was at the high school when Trigg County Sheriff Ray Burnam II, Principal Burcham, the school resource officer and school staff initiated a practice lockdown at the school to implement the security plan. I watched as the procedure was being implemented.
On Thursday, October 6, 2011, I had business at the school. I walked up to the intercom and pushed the speaker button. The high school secretary, Mrs. Kash, told me over the speaker that the school was on lockdown and I could not come in. I told Mrs. Kash that I would come back later. On the door near the speaker is a yellow sign that provides the following information: “Unlawful possession of a weapon on school property in Kentucky is a felony punishable by a maximum of five years in prison and a Ten Thousand Dollar ($10,000.00) fine KRS 527.070.” This sign is provided at all the school entrances. The law is simple. It has nothing to do with motives, reason or intentions.
In a conversation with a parent of a student, it was reported to me that a teacher prevented all the students in the class from going into their backpacks. The newspaper reported that a search of a backpack by a school employee turned up a 9 mm handgun with a magazine and bullets. The magazine was not inside the handgun. The handgun was in the classroom. The teacher made the “right decision.”
The anonymous student at Trigg County High School demonstrated a personal regard for individual safety and the safety of fellow students. Students are the first line of communication against threats to their safety at school. In this age of empowerment and instant communications, high school students have one solution that was not available when I was in high school. Nearly all of them have cell phones. Bullying, meanness and threats in high school, when known, can be addressed and confronted. It takes just a few seconds to text concerns to the Principal, the guidance counselor, teachers or the resource officer.
Years ago, there was a popular advertisement, “Support your local Sheriff. “Trigg County is fortunate to have a modern Sheriff. You can actually reach out and text the chief law enforcement officer of Trigg County. The Sheriff’s cell number is 350-3815. If a citizen or a student has a concern, our Sheriff is only a text or a phone call away.
Trigg County High School students should continue to make the “right decisions” in the future. They have power readily available. If a student believes something is wrong, tell someone, be it the principal, the guidance counselor, teachers or law enforcement. I extend my gratitude to all the individuals who made the “right decisions” for our students on October 6, 2011.
John F. Hall
Senior Trooper, Kentucky State Police (retired)