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Leaders eye school safety plans after Connecticut attack

“It’s just very difficult to be able to … eliminate all those risks,” said Rick Johnson, superintendent of the Mahomet-Seymour Community Schools in Illinois.

The mass killing inside a Connecticut elementary school has educators across the country reviewing their school security measures, reassuring parents, and asking, “What if?”

“Every principal will be going through their own protocols, the things they do on a daily basis to protect their students and staff,” said Dr. Will Keresztes, associate superintendent for student support in the school system in Buffalo, N.Y.

Amid grief and condolences for the 20 children fatally shot Dec. 14 by a gunman in Newtown, Conn., school leaders nationwide sent eMails, text messages, and phone recordings assuring parents and children their schools are safe, while acknowledging the difficult balancing act in keeping that promise.

“It’s just very difficult to be able to, in today’s world, eliminate all those risks,” said Rick Johnson, superintendent of the 3,000-student Mahomet-Seymour Community Schools district in rural eastern Illinois.

Driven by previous school shootings, many district officials say they already lock building doors, require identification from visitors, employ safety officers—some of them off-duty police officers—and have established text-messaging or other mass emergency notification systems for parents. There are metal detectors at some public schools considered at risk for violence, including some schools in New York City and Milwaukee. Portable detectors are brought out as needed in some districts.

At Sandy Hook Elementary, the scene of the Dec. 14 massacre, Principal Dawn Hochsprung wrote a letter before the school year started outlining new safety measures, including locked doors during school hours. Hochsprung was among those killed in the shooting.

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Comment:

  1. keytriad

    December 18, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    This conversation is too important for any overstated comment that detracts from the real problem. I contacted Joe LaSorsa for comment because his quote in the above article left me a bit confused as he seemed to support the status quo by saying:

    “Schools can’t utilize a paramilitary type response, ” said Joseoph LaSorsa, a former Secret Service agent who consults on security, “You’re not going to be lining your corridors with armed guards.”

    After such pain and loss, I felt these comments were out of place because over simplified answers are equal to no answers. How can anyone support the status quo where principals are defenseless
    and left with no other choice but to run into the spray of fire to unarm a mentally ill school shooter bent on destruction? The means with which the mentally ill person uses to carry out his destruction is not the issue — evil will always find a way to unleash itself. The issue is how can anyone abide ,after the fact, any principal that isn’t given the support (armed guard at the door) to further protect him/herself and their students today anymore than they were protected on last Friday? The principal at Sandy Hook Elementary in CT showed us all more is needed.

    This is what Joseph LaSorsa had to say:

    “This tragedy is one of the hardest of all of the past incidents to deal with because of who it affected and how it affected them. We should keep in mind, however, this is not one of the traditional school violence incidents. This perpetrator was an individual who was an unknown to the school administration and an outsider. There’s a clear common element in most mass shootings – the perpetrator was mentally ill or completely went off the deep end when committing this heinous act and the perpetrator was focused on Targeted Violence and intent on inflicting mass harm in the effort.

    In the Newtown incident, it seems the shooter’s mental condition deteriorated rapidly and/or too quickly to be noticed and to have had any positive intervention.

    What can we do? Should school districts conduct Security Audits and Assessments to evaluate their current security policies, protocols and security systems? Of course. Should security policy dictate more stringent access control measures be put in place? Absolutely. Should the school administrators request to have their physical security systems upgraded? Of course. Should school security policy dictate the use of security guards on their premises during and after school hours? Yes.

    Individuals and media pose and throw out questions like: Should schools have metal detectors? Should they employ armed guards? How much security is enough? These are questions and issues which can be considered by consultants and administrators on a case by case basis, however, the answer is not in militarizing our society and it’s institutions.

    We need to enhance security countermeasures across the board and understand the main cause of the problem we are facing in our society today, which is the lack of institutionalization and proper treatment of the severely mentally ill.

    Let’s step back and consider a fact. Very few of us know of anyone or their relative or friend that is institutionalized. The asylums don’t exist in the numbers they existed years ago. Because of the current mental treatment trends, the mentally ill and criminally insane live among us and in our neighborhoods.

    We have had mall, movie theatre and school mass shootings. We have to ask ourselves: why are these individuals killing people? What is/was the root cause of their actions?

    In addition to the above, the government and society watchdogs should monitor and control the sale of violent video games kids are allowed to watch instead of healthy diversions like sports and homework.

    Erosion of traditional family values; doing away with God and Faith; society and the media sponsoring and selling violent video games; lack of institutionalization of the criminally insane – all combine to give us a lethal, explosive combination of nasty, violent ingredients!

    Do we need to further implement stricter policies and procedures for the acquisition of assault weapons? Yes. Do we need to be more security aware and vigilant? Yes. Guns, like alcohol during Prohibition and illegal drugs – will still be available to the criminals and those who are willing to pay the black market prices. In order for our society to realize any serious positive outcomes of gun control legislation or enhanced security measures across the board, we will also at the same time need to address the very serious issue of the limited number of mental institutions available capable of incarceration of the severely mentally ill and the criminally insane and society’s attitudes toward the treatment of the severely mentally ill.”