When we hear about school shootings, we typically think of them occurring in schools—not at school board meetings. But that was not the case on Dec. 14, when 56-year-old Clay Duke fired multiple shots at Superintendent Bill Husfelt and board members during an afternoon meeting of the Bay County (Fla.) School District in Panama City.
Duke's shots missed the board members, and he took his own life by shooting himself in the head after the district's security and police chief, Mike Jones, shot Duke during his rampage. Jones and board member Ginger Littleton, who tried to disarm Duke by striking him from behind with her purse, were hailed as heroes.
Well-intended school administrators and boards often neglect their own security while putting their focus on safety at school buildings. The Florida shooting now has district leaders looking at steps they can take to improve security and preparedness at administration buildings.
Expulsion hearings, meetings with irate parents and employee disciplinary and termination hearings are a few common activities that can create heightened security concerns at administration facilities. Today's tense climate created by budget cuts, layoffs and eliminated student programs can turn typically routine board meetings into risky settings.
School administration and support service buildings need site-specific security measures, crisis teams and emergency plans. Fire drills, lockdowns, and evacuations required of school sites should also be conducted. Board meeting security should be evaluated not only for security and/or police staffing needs but also for physical security measures such as meeting room layout, panic buttons to call for help and board member egress options.
The shooting has caused many districts to reevaluate their security plans. Orange County (Fla.) Public Schools have planned meetings with the Orlando Police Department to assess security measures, and Orange, Osceola, Volusia and Seminole counties in Florida have said they keep security guards on hand at public meetings. According to the Northwest Florida Daily News, Bay County Schools placed a uniformed deputy at the following week's public meeting and is putting additional security measures in place that they did not want to publicize.
In a joint statement, Anne Bryant, executive director of the National School Boards Association, and Wayne Blanton, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association, said, "Mike Jones... should be applauded for his heroism along with the school board members, superintendent and other staff involved in this horrific ordeal."