A teacher using an electronic device to report a fight at Riverwood International Charter School in Sandy Springs hit the button too many times, which instead identified it as an active shooter. (Riverwood/Facebook)

A large fight at Riverwood High School that was misreported as an active shooter situation prompted the Sandy Springs and Fulton County Schools police chiefs to explain to the Sandy Springs City Council what they are doing for the community’s schools.

“After the tragic events in Nashville, Tennessee, I got a lot of calls, the Mayor’s Office got a lot of calls just about school safety,” Sandy Springs Police Chief Ken DeSimone told council at its April 4 meeting.

He was joined by Fulton County Schools Police Chief Mark Sulborski, whose jurisdiction of 108 school sites stretches from Palmetto north to Milton, excluding the city of Atlanta.

“The only thing that we can do is train, train and more training and have good partnerships,” DeSimone said.

Just a few weeks ago a large fight at Riverwood High School was misreported by a teacher who pressed an alert button too many times, he said.

“She pushed it more than she should have and it set off an active shooter alarm and we were screaming in there,” he said.

City police officers arrived in less than two minutes, he said.

Students pulled out their cellphones to stream live video and told their parents they had an active shooter at the school, DeSimone said. Fulton County Schools Police officers took the students involved in the fight into custody with no problems, he said.

While the two law enforcement agencies have a great working relationship, but Fulton County Schools handles only the public schools in Sandy Springs. The city has many private schools, which mostly hire off-duty Sandy Springs officers to handle resource officer functions.

Sulborski said his department’s jurisdiction covers 400 square miles and they work with 13 other jurisdictional partners.

“You guys have always been there for us in our time of need, just like we had last week,” he said.

DeSimone said Fulton County Schools has an opportunity for a grant to fund a firearms simulator. The school system asked to put that simulator in Sandy Springs’ new police headquarters, which will be located on Morgan Falls Road. The virtual reality system will be used by police officers from Fulton County Schools, Sandy Springs, and students participating in the criminal justice program at local high schools, he said.

Sulborski said an application for speed zone cameras in school zones has been held up because state law requires the superintendent of schools to be the applicant and oversight falls to the board of education. The school district needs a method to assure the cameras are being used properly before handing over operations to a local agency.

Mayor Rusty Paul said a new law just passed by the General Assembly limits their operation to 30 minutes before school starts and 30 minutes after the school day ends.

The school district already has license plate readers. It has a robust camera system throughout the district, Sulborski said, and it can be monitored centrally or called up on his phone.

The school system needs more community involvement. Parents need to talk to their kids on an age-appropriate level about what to do in traumatic incidents as they may have a better effect on them than just training at their schools, he said.

Avatar photo

Bob Pepalis

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Rough Draft Atlanta and Reporter Newspapers.