JACKSON COUNTY, WV (WOWK) – Starting next school year, a new safety program will be underway in Jackson County Schools.
“Being good enough in this particular instance wasn’t really good enough moving forward,” said Ross Mellinger, Jackson County Sheriff.
The Jackson County Sheriff’s Department and Jackson County Schools are partnering to start the new program, called the Shield Program.
Mellinger said it’s the result of an event that unfolded 3 months ago when a 15-year-old student brought a handgun onto a school bus at Ripley Middle School.
“Even though things went well in terms of the response and appropriate actions on all levels, myself and the superintendent at the time decided we could do better,” Mellinger said.
Now, the sheriff and his deputies will be required to spend a few hours each week patrolling a school in the county.
“The goal is for every officer, every deputy here to be just as familiar with the one school today as they are the next one tomorrow, you know, every school they should know inside and out,” Mellinger said.
The initiative is bringing ease to people like Lisa Casto, who says she has a grandson attending school in the county next year.
“First and foremost, the safety of our kids is the most important,” Casto said. “I feel this will ease parents [and] grandparents raising kids.”
Cassandra Judge, a Jackson County school substitute nurse, also said she’s happy about the new program.
“I think that they will help promote the children feeling safer, and I think the teachers and staff will feel safe, more safe,” Judge said.
According to Mellinger, this program isn’t just about prevention, it also allows deputies to build relationships within the community.
“Walking the halls, fist-pumping the kids, having lunch with them, playing kickball on the playground, talking to the teachers, the custodians, the staff, whatever you need to do to help build that relationship and help learn what you can what’s going on in the school system itself,” Mellinger said.
So far, Mellinger said he’s optimistic about this new approach.
“Complacency will get your kids killed and looking at this thing within its entirety, this is designed specifically for that, not to be complacent. [To] move forward and try to make it better every day,” he said.