Jackson County turns to Shield program to help protect schools

RIPLEY, W.Va. – The Jackson County Sheriff’s Department and Jackson County Schools have partnered to launch a new school safety program for the upcoming school year.

Jackson County Shield Program.

The program is called “The Shield Program” and will ensure that every school in the county will have part-time assistants patrolling hallways and grounds starting in August. Jackson County Sheriff Ross Mellinger told WMOV-Radio in Ravenswood that every deputy, including himself, will be required to spend a few hours a week at the school of his choice.

Mellinger said prevention starts with engagement.

“You have to draw that proverbial line in the sand and say it’s not going to happen in Jackson County. And if so, this perspective school shooter is only assured of second place,” he said.

Mellinger added that deputies can walk hallways, play with children while checking perimeters, discussing safety with staff and building relationships.

Ross Mellinger

The program was made possible through a mutual aid agreement between Mellinger, the Jackson County School Board and the Jackson County Commission.

In April, the school system came under fire when two teenagers, students and brothers, were arrested by law enforcement. One of the teenagers pulled a gun on a Jackson County school bus in a fight with another student. It was later learned that he had the gun with the intention of shooting someone at Ripley Middle School.

No one was injured and no shots were fired, but Mellinger said everyone should work to improve every day.

“Even though things went well during this response, everything was good and strong. We quickly realized that good enough was not enough and we needed to take a more proactive approach,” he said.

August 17 is the first day for Jackson County teachers and August 24 is the first day for students.

Ryan H. Bowman