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"It could happen to us:" DeKalb Co. Schools talk security after FL shooting

School officials tell WAAY 31 their students’ safety is always top priority, but they say they become extra cautious when they hear about events like the shooting that happened in Florida.

Posted: Feb. 15, 2018 6:13 PM

The terrible incident that happened at a Florida school Wednesday could have very well happened at one of our own schools.

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After a man was arrested for walking into a Dekalb County school with a pellet gun this week, WAAY 31 spoke to DeKalb County school officials to learn what plan they have in place to help prevent these kinds of incidents from happening.

School officials tell WAAY 31 their students’ safety is always top priority, but they say they become extra cautious when they hear about events like the shooting that happened in Florida.

“It’s always scary to think about that it could happen to us; and it’s heartbreaking what is happening in Florida. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those families," said Assistant Superintendent of DeKalb County Schools, Brian Thomas.

Thomas says the recent school shooting in Florida hit a little too close to home for him.

That’s because a similar situation could have happened in DeKalb County Monday night when deputies say 21-year-old Cole Barnes entered Sylvania High School with a pellet gun, while students were there, rehearsing for a performance.

However, Thomas says one teacher took matters into her own hands when she immediately contacted law enforcement and even confronted Barnes to tell him to leave.

“We are very proud of her response in this situation, because it could’ve escalated," Thomas said.

Barnes was later arrested and charged with criminal trespassing, menacing and disorderly conduct.

Thomas says communication and security training within schools is always important when something like this happens, but he says it doesn’t hurt that they have great partnerships with local law enforcement, and can count on them to respond as quickly as possible--including their school resource officers.

“So we have somebody there who is trained to respond and they have been a great asset to our system," Thomas said.

And he's not the only one who thinks so.

“Just the presence of an officer and him knowing the students and who is supposed to be here," said Tonja Hayes, who is a grandmother to a student in DeKalb County Schools.

Hayes says she’s never felt that she had to worry about her granddaughter's safety.

“I just feel like they have the kids’ best interest at heart and that they are going to take care of our kids and grandkids," Hayes said. "They’re watching out for their safety at all times.”

And Thomas—whose own children also attend DeKalb County Schools—says that will always be the goal.

“We want to do everything we can to protect these children, even if they aren’t our own, but as they are," he said.

Officials tell WAAY 31 they trust that their teachers and their school resource officers will continue to do their job by always keeping their students safe.

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