ZACHARY, La. (BPROUD) — The Zachary school district will be welcoming students back onto its campuses next week. Superintendent Scott Devillier says they’ve been planning for students’ return.
“Well…. we always put safety first,” said Devillier.
Devillier explained that they use the summer break to upgrade their safety mechanisms.
“We upgrade cameras,” said Devillier. “I think we had some locks that weren’t working but we just, it was time to change some of them.”
Like everyone in the country, Devillier was deeply affected by the deadly school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, and wants to do everything in his power to prevent something like that from happening in his schools.
“When those types of things happen, you sort of get a little weakness in your stomach, it is scary, you definitely don’t want that to happen,” said Devillier.
He watched the videos and read about the details of the shooting and took time to think about how he could apply lessons learned to upgrade the classrooms.
“The thing is when you see those things that happen in our county, it is scary, you know it makes you reflect on what can we do better. I like to have all the doors locks checked, those are the types of things that you think about,” said Devillier.
Another line of defense on the school grounds includes having armed protection in the form of School Resource Officers, or SROs, at every campus. Including Zachary PD SRO Sgt. Cothern Williams, who has been stationed at the high school for the last four years and knows this community well.
“I graduated from Zachary; I was brought up in the community,” Williams said.
Williams shared that his role at the school is very different than being on the streets.
“It’s more about the safety of the children and making sure that they have that environment at the school that their parents would provide for them at home,” Williams said.
Maintaining peace on the school grounds is key to keeping everyone safe.
“De-escalation plays a big role, a lot of times you know a child might get mad, of course at that point they are not quite thinking so if you can step in between and keep something from going overboard,” Williams said.
Devillier said they focus on the root of the problem and take a proactive approach to mental health.
“We have seen an uptick in social and emotional issues with not only students but adults,” said Devillier.
Including using a program that keeps a close eye on red flags during computer use.
“If they are logged into the school system, it’s being monitored,” Devillier said.
The program alerts key people in the school system if specific language is used.
“It’s looking for target words, suicide, guns, weapons, some type of violence,” Devillier said.
He said it is key to keeping children safe.
“We’ve had situations where we have gotten calls from the company at 2 a.m. in the morning, we turned around and 15 minutes that lady was on the phone with the parent because it was an issue that needed to be dealt with right away,” said Devillier.
BRPROUD asked him if he thought using this program has saved a life.
“It definitely has, it definitley has,” Devillier recalled.
At the end of the day, Devillier takes his role as an educator and protector of children seriously.
“You do have a lot of responsibility, you know, every day when parents send, their kids to school they are sending them to school for you to educate them, but the number one goal is to keep them safe, get them back home safe and hopefully in-between there we have taught them a little something,” said Devillier.