Lee County schools’ head of security on keeping students safe after threats

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A student is escorted away from South Fort Myers High School by a parent or guardian in the wake of a swatting incident, Friday, September 16, 2022. Credit: WINK News

WINK News spoke to the man in charge of safety and security for the School District of Lee County after doing a back-to-school survey of parents, teachers and students and what is important to them.

As Southwest Florida parents get their children ready for school Monday morning, many are probably thinking of the images from Friday afternoon’s false alarm at South Fort Myers High School: Armed deputies running through the school to protect students from an active shooter. David Newlan, executive director of safety and security for Lee County schools, says a quick response is one of the most important things when responding to threats and swatting calls. What we witnessed was the opposite of what outraged parents in Uvalde, Texas.

Newlan says when it comes to safety, the most important thing is being one step ahead. You have to be proactive and not reactive. He tells WINK that LCSD is constantly looking at ways to improve, looking at newer technology to increase school safety.

“I’m never going to be happy until there’s no more shootings, put it that way, nationwide, so until that time comes, I’m always gonna be looking to improve our security; until then, I’m not going to stop,” Newlan said. “But there’s got to be a balance. You want to make sure that our kids feel safe; you want to make sure that our staff feels safe. I want parents to know that their kids are in good hands. I also want kids to be able to concentrate, more importantly, on their education. And that’s why I tell parents, ‘If you have a question or concern about safety, call me.'”

His number is (239) 337-8554.

Armed Lee County deputies rush into South Fort Myers High School after a swatting incident, Friday, September 16, 2022. Credit: WINK News

Newlan’s position puts him in charge of the safety and security of more than 90,000 students. He says there’s always room for improvement, but he’s proud of how quickly officers can get into schools when an emergency may be at hand, as they believed on Friday.

“Every single officer [and] deputy in Lee County can get into a school if they have to under exigent circumstances, and that’s important,” Newlan said. “They don’t have to wait. If something was to happen, they go right in. And that’s we want to make sure the parents and everybody know, that that will happen.”

Rob Spicker, spokesman for LCSD, says the school district is reviewing the response timeline with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.

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