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Safe at school?

Published: Monday, Dec. 17, 2012 2:40 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012 3:22 p.m. CDT

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In light of Friday’s shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., area educators are reviewing their security systems once again. Locked doors, security cameras, office monitors ... all of these practices and more are on the minds of local school officials, as the nation reels from the tragic deaths in the New England town.

On Monday, Princeton Elementary Superintendent Tim Smith said he began addressing the Connecticut incident on Friday afternoon with his administrators and staff. What happened on Friday is difficult for anyone, child or adult, to process, he said.

“We’ve had a number of terrible shootings, and I think this one has frightened people more than the other shootings because of the children, so many innocent lives,” Smith said. “The senselessness of the act ... it does make you fearful.”

As far as talking with students about the Friday incident, Smith said the only reason a staff member would address the shootings with a child would be if the child brought it up. There were no planned assemblies or discussions scheduled.

“That discussion is one we are leaving for the families to have,” Smith said. “Each child is different, and the families know what is best for their child.”

As far as security at PES, Smith said the district is currently working on a needs assessment plan for each of the buildings, and that plan will definitely place on emphasis on security.

Ohio Schools Superintendent Sharon Sweger said she chose not to address the Connecticut shootings Monday morning with the students.

“We knew some students would be coming to school nervous, and we were afraid the more attention we drew to it, the more nervous the students could become,” Sweger said.

The school does begin its day with a moment of silence, which was done again Monday morning, the superintendent said.

Concerning security measures at the Ohio Schools, Sweger said she and her principal did sit down Monday morning and reviewed the district’s security policies to make sure things are in place. Exterior doors are locked, and security cameras and monitors installed. They did come up with one thing which could be done differently, specifically making sure substitute teachers have a key to their rooms in the event the substitute would need to lock and secure the classroom, Sweger said.

Collette Sutton, superintendent of LaMoille School District, said the district has a crisis management plan in place in each of the three school buildings within the district. Those plans are reviewed and updated each year. The details of the crisis management plan are kept confidential in the event that an intruder would enter the building.

As far as any discussion of the Connecticut shooting with students and staff on Monday, Sutton said the internal workings and details of the crisis emergency plan are kept confidential and shared with students and parents as needed.

At a Spring Valley Elementary staff meeting Monday morning, Principal Kim Lisanby-Barber said some of the teachers broke down into tears at the thoughts of Friday’s events.

Lisanby-Barber said staff meetings were held at both John F. Kennedy and Lincoln schools to reassure them the safety plan was in place. Lisanby-Barber said that, ironically, the plan just underwent its annual review last week with Spring Valley Police and fire departments.

‘It’s as secure as we can humanly, possible make it,” she said.

Lisanby-Barber said teachers were directed to not address the issue but to answer any questions and reassure the students if necessary.

“We don’t want to create children that are scared of everything,” she said.

Lisanby-Barber said she hadn’t heard from any parents yet, but questions might arise as they process last week’s events. In that case, the district will find the resources to help them.

“It’s a non-comprehendible action that just took place,” she said. “The shock that someone could do that to babies.”

In the Bureau Valley School District, interim Superintendent Dennis Thompson said no action was taken on a district level.

Thompson said security at Bureau Valley is probably the same as at every other school district. All of the buildings are locked everyday after school starts. There are cameras at the doors, and visitors must be buzzed in.

Thompson said they would probably have a discussion about the district’s safety procedures, but he said they are already secure.

“We’re about as closed up as we can be,” he said. “But it’s tough to seal out everybody, especially first thing in the morning.”

Bureau Valley South Principal Kristal LeRette said the district’s schools have plans and run drills to stay prepared for crisis situations, and procedures are in place to receive visitors. The faculty, staff and administration review the emergency plans and procedures on a regular basis, and they meet once a year with all law enforcement and fire departments to review the plans.

LeRette provided the following statement from her and Bureau Valley North Principal Sandra Beitsch and high school Principal Eric Lawson:

“The event that happened at Sandy Ford Elementary School touches all of us. As educators we hurt and grieve with the parents, teachers and community members who lost children, family members, friends and colleagues. Our deepest thoughts and prayers are with the community of Newtown in the days and weeks to come.”

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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