By John Coffelt, Staff Writer
Manchester Police Department recently addressed Coffee County Central High School students over the last week in a series of assemblies, assuring the students of every officer’s dedication to go into harm’s way to protect the school and its students.
With the pledge came a call for students to stay observant and be diligent in reporting any suspicious activity.
“You all are the front line of defense. You have to help us as the police department to help you. We are here today to ask for your help,” MPD Chief Mark Yother said.
“We want you guys to feel comfortable and get a great education without fear of being hurt or killed.”
Yother acknowledged that often young people are reluctant to report suspicious behavior to the police for being labeled as a “snitch.”
“That mindset has got to go if we have something as serious as someone in our schools [planning to do harm],” Yother said while calling for situational awareness. “You’re going to be the first to get the vibe if something’s going to happen.”
Yother continued, “When I [attended CHS], I didn’t like the police. Let me tell you this, we don’t have to like each other to help each other,” he said.
“When something happens like what happened in [Parkland] Florida, it’s going to take all of us to get through that situation.”
He assured the assembly, “I guarantee that Manchester Police Department will be here for each and every one of you.”
MPD Assistant Chief Adam Floied moved to specifics in addressing the students.
“When something bad has happened in the past, it kind of goes away. For a time after it happens, everybody cares…then it fades away. But we’re not forgetting about it. We are not going to forget about you guys.”
Floied estimated a response time of 2-3 minutes for the department, noting that School Resource Officer Charlie Taylor is already on scene and that in the event of violence that time would likely be quicker.
In the event of a school-shooter situation, Floied said Taylor and the first officers on scene will seek to engage the subject and neutralize the threat.
However, in an active shooter scenario, a person is killed on average about every 15-20 seconds.
“I guarantee this, if something happens in this school, deputy Taylor is coming to where the violence is happening and the threat, and right behind him… we’re coming through the door,” Floied said.
He tasked the students to survive the 2-3 minutes between shooting and officer response time.
“The staff knows what to do. They’ve been trained to know what to do. It’s your job to know how to survive until law enforcement can confront [a threat].
“Part of that is … you guys following directions, being leaders and making those plans happen.”
Floied suggested students avoid violence, deny it (by barricading a door, etc.) and to do whatever they can to survive.
“You do what you have to do to survive that encounter,” he said.
Floied also called for increased situational awareness.
Principal Dr. Joey Vaughn had invited the department to speak to the student body.
“The world has changed lately. Over the last couple of weeks, there have been a lot of conversations about school safety. Your lives have changed and you will never be the same,” Vaughn said.
Vaughn reiterated the police department’s call for reporting suspicious activity, but stressed the safety of the students.
“I believe with my very being that you are safe. Their is always that crazy world out there that you have to be a part of,” Vaughn said to the gathered students.
“I asked these guys to come, not because I thought that something was going to happen. I want you to own it. I want you to know that these are fathers, people who live here. They care about you and building that relationship.
“There are a lot of things that we do and go through to keep you guys as safe as possible. But at the end of the day, the people that keep you the safest is you,” Vaughn told the assembly of juniors on Friday.
He noted that plans are in place for various threat scenarios, but that for security, often details of those plans are not shared with students.
Prior to the assembly, the school held a soft lockdown drill. The officers came three different days to speak to all grade levels at the school.