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.