Starting Strong: Tuscaloosa City Schools focusing on safety, security

Starting Strong 3

A safe and secure environment has always been essential for effective teaching and learning, but it’s harder and harder these days to ensure that’s happening.

At Tuscaloosa City Schools, Safety Coordinator A.B. Green is in charge of keeping the system’s 21 schools and 11,000-plus students out of harm’s way. It’s a job he came to about a year ago after retiring as a police captain from the Tuscaloosa Police Department, where he worked for more than 30 years.

While keeping students and staff safe is part of his job description, he needs a lot of help making it happen.

“Safety is not just a school job,” said Green. “It is not just a police department job. It is an entire community job. And the challenge for us is to make sure parents and community members are buying in 100% with the idea that this place will be a safe haven.” 

Keeping schools a safe haven takes a lot of work. And practice.

“We are under state mandate to have at least one emergency drill every month we have students in the building, and we follow that,” said Green. “There are fire drills. There are weather drills. There are other things. And along with those drills we are practicing what will happen in an emergency.”  

TCS is proactive when it comes to avoiding emergencies, Green said. In fact, the system has measures in place to protect anyone who belongs in the building. 

“We are constantly reinforcing our message,” said Green. “We want our doors closed and locked, both those exterior doors and interior doors, all throughout the educational day. We are challenging our own staff as well as all our visitors to make sure they understand you must be admitted to campus. You must be signed into our system if you visit our campus. The front office is where we want everyone to come.” 

Another major component when it comes to keep students safe? School resource officers. TCS, Green said, is committed to having an SRO in every school. But like any other workplace — and increasingly for the Tuscaloosa Police Department, it’s hard making that happen when you’re short-staffed.

“We are continuing to try to have enough officers to have an officer in every school all day every day, said Green. “We are 95% of that right now.”  

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