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McCracken County, KY

High School Secure after tragedy

High School Secure after tragedyy
By: Erica Byfield

McCracken County, KY - Tragedy struck Heath High School in West Paducah in early December 1997, on that horrific day three heartland students lost their lives.  Now, almost ten years later the school's more secure than ever.  How does it stand out?

Security is a priority at Heath High School and district leaders outfitted this property with the works.

"You can't prevent any and ever act of violence as we've seen through out the country the last few days," said Principal Russ Tilford. 

But, you can try with locks, fences, sensor lights, an attentive staff and fourteen cameras, that record 24 hours, seven days a week.

"We want our students to feel safe when they walk in the door in the morning," said Tilford.   

In 1997 Tilford was a teacher at Heath, now he's the principal.  He tells me in the nine years since it's still hard to shake those awful memories from his mind.

But now his focus is on improving test scores, along with keeping a watchful eye on the campus and the well-being of his students.

"The number one thing we do is really concentrate on developing relationships with students," stressed Tilford. 

Through it all he says that's the key, "not just knowing if they have an "A" or "B" in the class, but knowing what problems they have that they might bring with them from home to school."

Since the day after the shooting, each day at heath starts the same, a welcoming greeting from staff and a quick search of every bag that comes through the doors.

"Truthfully, we've not confiscated a single weapon in the backpack searches in the years that we've been doing that now," said Tilford. 

He adds this is America's reality and it's his responsibility to make sure his campus is secure.

Principal Russ Tilford also tells us they added another security measure.  Each school year they survey the students and ask one simple question, "who to do trust at health high school?" 

    

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