“It is not OK to bring a firearm in any of our facilities or on any of our properties,” he said.
Barber said he is concerned that the public may think it is fine to carry a gun on school property with the new gun law passed by state legislators this past legislative session.
“We have new signage up,” he said.
Barber said the school system spent several hundred dollars for new signage to help warn and prevent people from carrying weapons onto school property or to after-school activities, like sporting events.
“Just because the law changed doesn’t mean our policy has changed,” he said.
Barber said school officials would notify local law enforcement agencies immediately if someone violated the policy by bringing a firearm onto school board property.
“We have notified local law enforcement of our policy,” Barber said. “And we certainly don’t want people bringing firearms to our football games or any of our sporting or school events.”
St. Clair County District Attorney Richard Minor said there is a federal statute that prohibits firearms on a school campus that remains in place.
“It is still against the law to have a gun within a school district,” Minor said, adding that there are some exceptions.
Pell City Police Chief Greg Turley said local law enforcement agencies, including the Pell City Police Department, has a copy of the Pell City Board of Education policy prohibiting firearms on school board property.
“We work close with the school system,” he said. “We do have officers in the school system.”
Turley said the department respects a person’s right to carry an open or concealed weapon, but not on school property.
He asked gun owners to think about how a parent would feel if they were picking up their child after school, only to see a person get out of his or her car with a firearm?
“The biggest thing, we don’t want guns in the schools,” he said. “No guns are allowed on school campuses.”
He said police would ask anyone caught with a firearm on school property to leave the premises. If they refuse, they can be arrested and charged with criminal trespassing.
Turley said anyone who has questions about the new gun law should call their local law enforcement agency.
He said since the gun law was enacted Aug. 1, PCPD has had no problems, but the department has fielded questions from local business owners.
He said PCPD is not providing “No Firearms” signs to local businesses.
“That’s the responsibility of each individual business,” Turley said. “Just because you don’t have a sign up, doesn’t mean business owners can’t prohibit firearms on their property.”
He said businesses could contact a local sign shop for a “no firearms” sign, but that is up to each individual business.
“If there are any questions about the application of this law, contact the local police department,” Turley said.
Turley said business owners could ask a person with a gun to leave their property. If the individual refuses and police are notified, the person could be arrested.
He also said gun owners need to use a common sense approach.
Guns on school campuses made headlines again Tuesday when a 20-year-old man armed with an assault rifle exchanged gunfire with officers at an Atlanta-area elementary school. No one was injured, and the suspect eventually surrendered.
“Safety is our top priority,” Talladega County Schools Superintendent Suzanne Lacey said. “When incidents like the one that happened yesterday occur, it becomes a topic of conversation for us. It definitely brings to mind the importance of safety and helps make us more aware and vigilant.”
Lacey credited the collaboration with local law enforcement officials and school resource officers for helping reinforce the high standards of protection in place.
“Our school safety plan is in place every day,” Lacey said. “It’s a team effort to provide the highest level of security for our students and staff.”
Talladega City Schools Superintendent Doug Campbell said city schools were "staying with their basic program for the time being. We've got all our procedures in place, and we will be putting signage up. We have reinforced with our administrators that we are a gun-free system, and we have also emphasized the policies from the state. We are continuing with our safety plan."
Signage prohibiting firearms on campus has been placed at every entry point at each of the four schools in Sylacauga City Schools, said Superintendent Todd Freeman.
“The state superintendent sent a memorandum to school districts about a week before school started with the information that the gun law would not change any policy we had in regards to firearms on campus,” Freeman said. “We have put signs up at every entry point, and I would think that is a common thing schools are doing.”
Sylacauga schools were provided signs from the Talladega County Sheriff’s Office that read, in part, “No firearms or weapons permitted on this property.” Freeman said school officials met with Sheriff Jimmy Kilgore and other law enforcement before the start of school to review the gun law and obtain signs to post.
“The gun law opens up questions about where guns are prohibited, so keeping the public educated and aware that the law does not mean you can carry guns on campus is very important,” Freeman said.
The school system has implemented several other safety measures this year as well, largely in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn. on Dec. 14, 2012 in which 20 children and six adults were fatally shot. School entryways now remain locked at all times and use a buzzer system to allow visitors inside. In addition, a second School Resource Officer position was created through a partnership with Sylacauga Police Department. Each SRO now travels between two schools, monitoring and mitigating any issues that may arise each day. Also, additional security cameras were installed at Sylacauga High School and Nichols-Lawson Middle School over summer break to cover “blind spots” where visibility was needed.
“The schools and the city have made some big steps this year to keep improving security on campuses,” Freeman said.
There have been no gun-related incidents at Sylacauga schools in recent history, Freeman said.
Staff writers David Atchison, Emily Adams, Chris Norwood and Shane Dunaway contributed to this story.