By CARL SMITH
Mississippi Department of Education officials will hold a live-shooter exercise Saturday at Overstreet School as part of the organization’s school safety training initiative.
The exercise is closed to the public and will occur throughout the day, MDE school safety spokesman Don Criswell said.
Exercises of this nature are held annually in multiple locations throughout the state and used to train school resource officers for worst-case scenarios, he said. Approximately 22 SROs are expected to attend the training session.
Overstreet School is the home of three Starkville School District initiatives: an alternative school for Oktibbeha County School District and SSD students, the Accelerators Program for Armstrong Middle School students and the city school district’s GED program.
Saturday’s exercise was scheduled well before — and is not a response to — the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Criswell said. MDE has held about five similar training sessions in the past two months in different regions of the state.
“Our school resource officers are required to attend these annual refresher courses,” he said. “The entire exercise will take place inside the building.”
Officials from Starkville Police Department, Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Department, OCH Regional Medical Center and county E-911 services said their organizations will not actively participate in the exercise.
Earlier this month, MDE officials said the state school system began reviewing policies and training requirements related to school safety.
Shane McNeil, a school safety director with MDE, said the organization is exploring possible expansions to minimum safety requirements for all Mississippi public schools. MDE officials have not announced a timetable for completing the study.
“We’re looking at all possibilities to … maximize all resources to ensure every child remains safe at school,” McNeil said Jan. 4. “Every school is required to have a safety plan. That plan has to be approved by local school boards on an annual basis. The Department of Education provides a template for the development of those plans, but (school officials) should be meeting with local authorities and making unique plans.”
Any proposed changes will be reviewed and could be approved through the State Board of Education, he said, thereby becoming part of minimum safety requirements.
“We’re just trying to be as proactive as possible to ensure compliance with existing policies as well as reviewing additional policies to expand current school safety measures,” he said Jan. 4.