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Examiner
  • EJC districts review safety policies in wake of tragedy

  • The images of 20 children brutally killed in a Connecticut elementary school massacre just days ago are burned into the heads of people throughout the United States and the world.

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  • The images of 20 children brutally killed in a Connecticut elementary school massacre just days ago are burned into the heads of people throughout the United States and the world.
    And as the funerals start for the young victims as well as the six adults who were killed, discussions are starting to focus on the safety measures in place in all school districts, including those in Eastern Jackson County.
    “School districts should constantly be evaluating their safety plans, regardless of whether incidents elsewhere are taking place or not,” said Fort Osage Superintendent Mark Enderle. “Though districts need to constantly be looking at ways to make physical improvements, i.e, buzz-in systems, additional SRO (School Resource Officer) presence, etc., I think the most important things to realize is that these type of incidents could happen anywhere. Shortly after the incident at Newtown, a parent was quoted as saying, ‘We didn’t think anything like that could happen here.’ If it could happen there, or Columbine, or Jonesboro, etc., it could happen anywhere.”
    At about 9:30 a.m. Dec. 14, Adam Lanza forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. In only a few minutes, he killed 20 6- and 7-year-olds, as well as six teachers and staff members, many of whom died trying to protect students. Lanza shot and killed his mother before going to the elementary school, and then committed suicide as law enforcement officers were entering the building.
    The incident, the second worst school shooting in U.S. history, has sparked debate about gun control and school safety.
    Much like Sandy Hook Elementary, all school districts in Eastern Jackson County have a security access system in place. Front doors are only open for a specific period of time at the beginning and end of the school day. The remainder of the day, the buildings are locked and visitors must be “buzzed in,” showing identification before they are permitted to access other parts of the building. All other exterior doors are locked throughout the day and can only be entered through card access.
    “This is a very somber time for all of us in our country and around the world. We have tragically lost the loves of innocent children, and it is imperative to reflect what is going on in the Independence School District,” said Superintendent Jim Hinson on a video message. “We believe we have done everything we can to protect our children and our employees. As a result of what has occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School, we are reviewing what we do to make sure we have every protocol in place to protect the lives of the people that are with us every day.”
    Many schools have also made changes to classrooms, allowing teachers to lock their doors from the inside. Crisis drills have joined severe weather and fire drills, which are practiced throughout the year, and security cameras are in most buildings. Blue Springs, Independence, Grain Valley, Fort Osage and Lee’s Summit are also in constant contact with police departments and other law enforcement agencies to develop the best safety plans possible for students and staff.
    Page 2 of 2 - “Our district has a comprehensive crisis plan that details our response in the event of a variety of crisis situations. This plan is the result of what regional and federal law enforcement agencies have learned about effective response to school crises. Each of our schools has a crisis response team who receives training from district personnel on school security and student safety,” said Grain Valley Superintendent Roy Moss in a letter to parents. “These teams work with the faculty in their schools to ensure all are prepared to respond to a variety of scenarios. All school personnel receive crisis response training and repeated drill practice throughout the school year, practicing such drills as lock-downs, evacuations and severe weather. This drill training for faculty and students serves as the basis for our response to other potential security situations within a school, including how we respond in the event of an active shooter.”
    Enderle said in light of what happened in Newtown, safety procedures are already being reviewed, and he said he would expect changes to be made in the future. As for addressing the Connecticut tragedy in classes, he said Fort Osage has chosen to let individual families decide the best way to handle questions and concerns from children.
    “That is up to each parent to decide for themselves, depending on how old their child is, and whether they are aware of what has happened, they may choose not to say anything,” he said. “Others, I’m sure, will have very lengthy conversations with their kids. For those that choose to have the conversation, I would hope they’d emphasize the importance of sharing concerns they might have with their parents or school officials. Many times there are warning signs that are ignored by either kids or grown-ups, or both. I would also hope our parents would assure their children that though the world can never be made completely safe, there are people who care very much for their safety and are always looking at ways to make our schools safer.”
     
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