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Shootings prompt safety reviews

On Friday morning, 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children ‘ all ages 6 or 7 ‘ and six adult staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. He had shot and killed his mother at their home before driving to the school to carry out the shootings. There, as police arrived, he committed suicide.
As it has in other parts of the country, Friday’s shooting has prompted school systems in Harrison County to review and change security measures.
The Lanesville Police Dept. has had an increased presence at that town’s schools this week and will continue to do so until Friday. For now, the junior-senior high school and elementary school will lock outside doors at both main entryways. All visitors must knock on the door or call the office to gain entry into the building.
Lanesville Superintendent Steve Morris said the school is re-evaluating security measures and emphasizing awareness of existing plans. Also, there is a plan to install a more secure doorway at the two main entries with a camera/buzzer system to gain access during the day.
‘Our students are very safe,’ Morris said. ‘An advantage of a smaller school is knowing the parents and relatives of our students who may be visiting the school during the day. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Newtown, Conn., in this horrible, senseless tragedy which will impact every school in America.’
On Monday, a letter was sent home with students in the South Harrison Community School Corp., notifying parents that all South Harrison schools will forevermore be on exterior lockdown. Any visitor to a school must knock on the front door to be let in, and visitors will be escorted to the area they are wanting to visit.
‘We’ve been reactive long enough, and we don’t want something like what happened in Connecticut to happen here and us change our policy after the fact. We want to be pro-active,’ Superintendent Dr. Neyland Clark said.
In South Harrison’s letter, it was mentioned that, on Saturday night, a special edition of ’48 Hours’ on CBS featured the investigation into Friday’s shootings. During the broadcast, CBS news journalists interviewed Dr. Ronald Stephens, executive director of the National Center for School Safety. In November 2006, Stephens had met with South Harrison Community School Corp. administrators to discuss issues related to the safety and security of its school campuses, and South Harrison school principals were provided valuable information for the safety of its students, according to the letter.
‘Any threats directed toward our schools, students or staff will be taken extremely seriously and will be referred to law enforcement officials. We appreciate the understanding of our parents and our school community as we enforce these protocols for the safety and well-being of our children. The safety of our students is and always will be our highest priority,’ the letter reads.
D. John Thomas, superintentendent of North Harrison Community School Corp., said he has received about 300 e-mails from parents this week and is working on responding to each.
NH schools currently use the camera/buzzer system to let visitors in (an electronic door system will be installed at Morgan Elementary).
‘I have directed building principals on certain procedures and guidelines, plus I sent out an e-mail by Harmony to all parents on procedures and what considerations are being considered, which the principals and I will address immediately this week,’ Thomas said Monday afternoon.
Thomas’ letter described how school employees are to be more vigilant about who enters the buildings and being aware of what people may have in their possession. Guests will not be allowed to roam the hallways, and classroom doors will be locked.
Other safety steps being reviewed are better monitoring of school parking lots, hallways, cafeterias and playgrounds, crisis plans and preparedness training and anonymous reporting systems. Thomas plans to ask the school board to consider hiring two security guards to have a presence, ‘at least for the time being,’ he said.
‘We can spend all the money we want on alarms, but nothing is as good of a deterent as someone present in uniform,’ he said. ‘The bottom line is the safety of our children.’