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Five years after the Parkland school shooting, how safe are Fayette schools? A panel is reconvening to find out.

Josh James

Fayette County Schools began the work of assessing its progress five years after convening a panel to respond to the growing safety concerns in the wake of the 2018 school shootings in Parkland, Florida and Marshall County, Kentucky.

The first iteration of the District Safety Advisory Council helped produce what's become known as the Comprehensive 10-Point Safety Investment Plan — pulling together a wide variety of stakeholders on subjects ranging from the physical security of school buildings to mental health services to monitoring threats on social media.

Thursday night, the council reconvened, with both new and old members, to take stock of where the district stands on the goals it laid out.

"What have we accomplished, where have we come from, and where are we going?" Superintendent Demetrus Liggins summarized the council's mission. "We're in a completely different environment than we were five years ago."

Presenters had plenty to report — including plans to have at least one school resource officer on every campus by the next fiscal year, a reduced ratio of students to mental health professionals, security alarms installed on all exterior school doors, and a partnership with a third party group to keep tabs on social media.

That last bullet point raised perhaps the most discussion during the meeting, with panelists curious about how the monitoring is performed, on what devices, and how it's determined if a comment warrants action.

Asked about slang and interpreting students' interactions, Dedeeh Newbern, chief student support services officer, said the decision to intervene doesn't come from one person but rather a group.

"When we make this decision of 'this is a threat and we need to actually investigate this further,' we feel very confident that the team approach helped us to make that determination more accurately," she said.

The meeting was only the first of several, as the district gathers new input. The next session will be a student panel held on February 9 at Tates Creek High School.

Watch the full meeting

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.