School districts nationwide respond to Newtown shooting

With 20 children and six adults confirmed dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., school officials around the United States sent parents and teachers a message of safety.

With wall-to-wall news coverage of the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., on Friday, parents around the country couldn’t help but wonder if the same thing couldn’t have happened at their own local schools.

Though some school districts, such as Chicago’s and New York city’s, had yet to articulate formal, public responses in the hours following the shooting which killed 20 children and six adults, officials at schools around the United States were offering one reassurance to parents: We won’t let this happen here.

Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Mike Miles made his statement quite brief, expressing sadness over the shootings in Connecticut and assuring parents he and other administrators will take action.

“Our schools are safe, but we will monitor today’s events to determine what additional safety measures can be put in place, especially in our elementary schools,” he wrote.

On its website, Brookfield Public Schools in Brookfield, Conn., which neighbors Newtown, directed parents to a document from Center Elementary School psychologist Meyer Glaser regarding talking to children about death.

“You can help by reassuring them that someone will always be there to take care of them, should anything happen,” Glaser wrote.

Other administrators went into far more detail about safety procedures and policies.

“I am confident with the safety and security protocols we have in place in our district,” Carolyn M. Kossack, superintendent of schools for the Little Silver School District in Little Silver, N.J., wrote in a letter to parents.

She went on to explain how a March 2011 state law mandates security drills in addition to monthly fire drills. The local police are routinely involved in those drills.

Kossack also wrote that students and staff should keep safety in mind.

“Students and staff are continuously reminded that they are not to open the door for anyone, and parent volunteers are respectfully reminded the same. At no time should any door be propped open,” she wrote.

Superintendent Dan Warwick of Springfield Public Schools in Springfield, Mass., offered a statement reminding parents of similar routine safety drills as well the presence of cameras, door buzzers, and security officers.

“We will continue to practice these safety protocols with diligence and this year we have allocated an additional $1.2 million for security maintenance and further enhancements,” he wrote.

The Los Angeles Unified School District’s press office issued a press release promising increased police visibility and patrols Friday “to reduce any fears or anxiety related to today’s incident.”

The release also offered help to students who may have needed it in the aftermath of the shooting and included links to emergency information, mental health resources, and information on how to deal with child trauma.

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