Parkland aftermath: Students also tapped to help improve school safety in Bristol


Alondra Guajardo will be a junior at Virginia High in Bristol this year.

“I like band. I like going to the library and reading books," she says. "I also like doing creating writing on my free time.”

Maybe a typical student but in uncertain times. After the mass shooting at Parkland, Florida in February, there was a nationwide outcry for gun control and improved school safety. For the first time, students were inspired to speak out for change. In Bristol, Alondra was involved from a local standpoint, which is part of the reason she was among students tapped by Superintendent Keith Perrigan, along with teachers and police, to figure out how to make schools safer here.

“There’s a fine line. You don’t want to barricade like a prison but also we have our community’s most prized possessions inside these walls,” said Perrigan.

Teachers are making the final touches in their classrooms and soon the hallowed halls will come to life again. One change coming was recommended by Alondra, adding a PE for students to train in self-defense. Not likely the best defense against an armed intruder but Alondra says it's empowering,

"I’d rather be prepared than allow a situation to grow worse," she said.

Behind the scenes, school doors and the security of the perimeter were improved to protect against breach, and the armed school resource officers assigned here and at every school in the city will have a heightened and more strategic presence. Federal and state grants have been doled out for it. Tennessee alone granted our region more than million dollars in extra funding. Still in some places it’s not enough. Most security improvements are not all that different from one school system to another. But in Lee County, Virginia, they’ve taken the highly controversial step of arming teachers, because they can’t afford SROs.

“No it’s not cheap," says Perrigan, adding, "Luckily it’s not a big financial impact on our city or school system because we’ve been able to fund those positions through grants.”

Still, the grants may run out. Alondra, aware of improvements, feels safe.

“I’m never really worried about here," she says. "I’m worried for everybody else and the thought it could happen.”

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