Whether it's a mentor program for at-risk students, security staff at every school campus, or routine safety drills, one thing is for certain: Students in the Marion School District will be protected during the 2021-22 school year.

The mentor program has been implemented by Director of Campus Safety John Evans to provide new support for at-risk students. Evans, and the seven officers who work with him to secure the district, will visit with students a few times per week to guide them about potential struggles away from school. One weekend per month, they will teach students how to tie a tie and other activities.

“Kids notice when you take an interest in them,” said Evans, who has been in law enforcement since 2007 and is in his seventh year at MSD. “We hope this program shows our students and parents that we want the best for them and to see them succeed.”

At least one patrolling officer is assigned to each campus in the district to secure the building. No less than twice a month, officers will execute surprise “safety searches” by wanding students inside their respective buildings. Students are subject to searches throughout the year starting in seventh grade.

“Our officers constantly move around, making sure doors are locked and keeping an eye on things,” Evans said. “It’s good for the kids to see the same face every day, and it benefits our officers to learn the school they’re stationed at.”

Security will cover every athletic event on campus with no less than three security officers, and everyone who attends games will walk through a metal detector.

MSD security officers underwent extensive training this summer to ensure the safety and comfort of students this school year.

Starting summer 2020, officers and students took part in ALICE (alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate), an active-shooter drill designed to instruct parties what to do in case of violence on campus.

“In previous years, we’ve trained faculty and staff, but it was a huge deal to be able to do it with the students this year,” said John Evans. “Our main concern is the safety of our students, and this is the best way to do prepare for such an event. We hope we never have to execute this plan, but we do need to have a plan.”