Chelsea Middle School principal talks about hostage situation, school security

(Kaitlin McCulley, WIAT-TV, CBS42 News)
(Kaitlin McCulley, WIAT-TV, CBS42 News)

[lin_video src=http://eplayer.clipsyndicate.com/embed/player.js?aspect_ratio=16x9&auto_next=1&auto_start=0&div_id=videoplayer-1371078901&height=480&page_count=5&pf_id=9624&pl_id=21958&show_title=1&va_id=4094221&width=640&windows=2 service=syndicaster width=640 height=480 div_id=videoplayer-1371078901 type=script]CHELSEA, Ala. (WIAT) — The man charged with holding five girls at gunpoint in the Chelsea Middle School locker room in February has been released from jail on $515,000 dollars bond.

Ryan Sims is under house arrest and cannot be alone, according to court documents. People supervising Sims must be approved by law enforcement.

Officials at Chelsea Middle are walking through new security plans with their school resource officer in preparation for the next school year.

The middle school was built decades ago, when the idea of a gunman on campus was not on anyone’s radar. The building has 14 entrances and exits, something school officials are working to change.

Principal Bill Harper is proud of the way his staff responded to the hostage situation in February. He feels students will not be in danger even though Ryan Sims is out on bond.

“The safety plan we have put in place combined with the limitations put on his movement are not going to threaten our kids,” Harper says.

Some parents in Chelsea are not as confident.

“I don’t know what our judicial system is doing to allow this,” Debbie Pitts says, “But I strongly oppose him being out.”

Chelsea Middle will be taking over the Chelsea Intermediate campus next door, which will require updates to security plans. As part of the transition, cameras in both buildings will be linked together, giving deputies access to a virtual map.

For Harper, the best way to ensure safety is through strong relationships between teachers, staff and students. He says in 80 percent of cases where students brought a gun to school in the U.S., at least two other students knew about it ahead of time.

Harper says that strong relationship is key, but it doesn’t diminish the need to be vigilant about keeping doors locked and to review and update emergency response plans.

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