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Ironton opts to have armed officers in schools

Aug. 27, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

IRONTON -- Armed law enforcement officers are patrolling the hallways of Ironton High School and Ironton Middle School this year as a security measure approved by the Ironton Board of Education.

Dr. Burton Payne, an Ironton school board member, said the board could have agreed to put some capable school personnel with a concealed carry permit in the schools.

"My opinion is that it would be best to put a professional person up there," Payne said. "These people are trained. We tried it last year and rotated them between the two schools. This year we have someone there at both schools during school hours."

Off-duty Lawrence County sheriff's deputies are working security at the high school while off-duty Ironton police are working at the middle school, Sheriff Jeff Lawless said. "It's working out very well," he said.

Just this month a man with an assault rifle and other weapons exchanged gunfire with officers at an Atlanta, Ga., area school before surrendering to police. While no students or school personnel were hurt, it's a reminder of the type of violence Ironton officials want to keep from happening here.

Dean Nance, Ironton superintendent, said while money is tight, school security is a high priority and the school board decided to pay for the armed, uniformed, off-duty officers to work security at the schools.

"In today's society, with all the school violence, we can't 100 percent guarantee the safety of our students," Nance said. "But we want to do everything possible to protect them."

"Sometimes we make ourselves a target," he said. "We want to take down the white flag over our schools. There are weapons in our schools manned by trained police officers. We are trying to make our schools as safe as possible."

Students are accepting the officers in the hallways, Nance said.

Having police officers and sheriff's deputies in the schools gives students to chance to talk to them about things going on in their neighborhoods, he said.

"They know it's OK to talk to them and ask questions," Nance said. "It gives them an outlet to talk to law enforcement officers.

"They've formed a relationship with our students," he said.

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