Baton Rouge area schools working to increase security

Area schools are strengthening emergency procedures by investing in security upgrades on campuses across East Baton Rouge Parish.

The East Baton Rouge Parish School System is in the planning stages to put to use a $295,000 grant awarded to the city. The Justice Department funds will be used to update security systems at 10 schools and add up to 180 new cameras on campuses across the parish.

No timeline has been set for the updates, says Taylor Halsey Gast, director of communications and public relations for the Baton Rouge school system.

Central Community Schools Superintendent Jason Fountain says most of the district’s schools were outfitted with cameras, school resource officers and security plans prior to the highly-publicized shootings that have occurred at schools across the country in recent years. Since the shootings, however, the district has been more proactive with student discipline, getting outside help for students who show behavioral and mental problems.

“It’s important to take the time not only to talk about shootings, but to think through (scenarios) and be very vigilant and proactive; not just sit back and be reactive,” Fountain says.

Outside of public schools, officials at St. Joseph Academy would not say whether campus security upgrades are planned this year, but note the private school has several security methods in place.

At Catholic High, school officials are implementing a master plan for campus and security, which includes extending hours for security staff and lighting, fencing around the campus perimeter and control-access gates.

Phase one of the plan was finished last summer, and the second phase is expected to wrap up later this month, says school President Gene Tullier. The security upgrades aren’t cheap, but Tullier insists the investment is part of “prudent operations in today’s age.”

“Immediately after (the school shooting in Parkland), Florida, we did an extensive evaluation on what we need to do in response to keep the community safe,” Tullier says. “Security cameras, fences and personnel are all important. You need and want all those things, but our focus is building community in the school, taking care of students and teaching them to take care of one another.”

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