Lamar Co. School District shares football safety plans

Lamar Co. School District shares football safety plans

LAMAR COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - The Lamar County School District is sharing gameday safety policies after shots were fired following a football game in Prentiss last week.

Director of Student Services Wayne Folkes said the district does annual risk assessments to ensure gameday safety. He said the district works with local law enforcement officials to carry out safety procedures.

"I think the biggest key is communication," Folkes said. "The time of an incident is not the time to be sharing phone numbers. You should know that prior to it. So we do a lot of planning prior to a contest during the summer."

Once the school year and after school sports are back in session, Folkes said they do a run through of each venue before any game kicks off.

"We meet together and do a walk through of the site," he said. "We bring in the law enforcement agencies that are going to be servicing that ball game, and we work with them to go over the pre-game plan of who's doing what where."

Folkes said events in Prentiss will not alter the district's approach because procedures are already in place.

"There's always an awareness of something that could happen because you're having people come on your campus at any time," he said. "But what we try to do is plan prior to these events happening. We have to work with local law enforcement agencies to make sure that we're vigilant in being observant of our surroundings."

Folkes said they work with ticket takers, gate workers and security inside and outside the stadium to have eyes in as many places as possible and are employing technology to help.

"We talk to those people who are assisting with parking," he said. "If they notice something unusual. that they know how to report it. We also have a system that we use called 'Tip Text.' If a person knows that there's some type of incident or some type of something out of the ordinary happening, they can anonymously tip text, and it goes to one of our officers."

Folkes said while there are not metal detectors at games, all of their attendants from the gate to the parking lot are trained to look for certain things. He also said fans are a big part in helping law enforcement do their jobs.

Folkes participated in the National Interscholastic Athletics and After-School Activities Safety and Security Summit, hosted by the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security, which is based in Hattiesburg. He said it is helpful to have those resources close to home to put the district on the cutting edge of campus security.

"We're already beginning to look at a drone policy for our school district," he said.

As part of the district's pre-game checklist, Folkes said they determine if they need more safety measures, like extra lighting, based on the popularity of the game.

"When you have a large crowd such as you will with Oak Grove and Laurel or when Sumrall plays Purvis, you may want to look at those venues," he said.

He said they also do a post-game briefing to go through what worked and what did not.

"The we get with our officers and say 'OK this what area we need to improve in. This is what we did very well in.' Those types of things," Folkes said.

He said officers and administrators leave the games as fans exit to increase observance and decrease congregation of crowds.

"Once people are moving, things seem to be better that way."

Folkes also said it is important to have designated people visible in school colors, a uniform or wearing a badge to help decrease potentially unsafe activities.