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FERRIER FILES: Safest schools in Tennessee? Perry County's fight for classroom barricades

FOX 17 NEWS

School shootings have been a concern for teachers and parents, especially after cell phone videos circulated of the Parkland shooting. Perry County Sheriff was so bothered by the deadly school shooting that he started raising money to put temporary door barricades in every school in Perry County.

Weems said it took just 10 days to raise thousands of dollars. But then an unexpected barricade, the State Fire Marshal said not to install temporary door barricades because they were against fire code. Fire inspectors worried that the barricades would trap students and teachers inside if a fire broke out.

But the sheriff didn't give up on the cause, and FOX 17 News kept pressing for answers. We found some building officials who believed the fire code could be circumvented.

“The way I read the code, these temporary barricades are perfectly legal,” said Gallatin building official Chuck Stuart.

But the Fire Marshal stiffened. In bold and underlined for double emphasis, his office told FOX 17 News: "The determination of the state fire marshal shall supersede the conflicting application or interpretation by the local government."

But then other community leaders put in their two cents. House Speaker Beth Harwell got involved in the push for the barricades, and the TBI Director supported the temporary door barricades.

So, the Fire Marshal gave in. Now, inspectors say they will no longer issue citations for barricade devices in classrooms.

Linden Middle School teacher Janeene Westbrook showed FOX 17 News that the barricade can be placed within 10 seconds.

"It's not complicated," Westbrook said. "Anybody can do it."

Perry County Schools Director Eric Lomax said he loves how easy it is even under stress.

"The teachers feel comfortable with them," Lomax said. "And our community will do anything for our kids to keep safe. The county commission approved an armed guard in every school, and that's expensive. We are very appreciative."

Perry County is now a blueprint for school safety. Sheriff Weems says he has been fielding calls from all over the state asking how he did it.

“The moral of the story is don't give up if you believe in something, stand up and fight it all the way. You might just get your way in the end,” said Sherriff Weems.

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