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Polk County Enterprise - Local News

Copyright 2012 - Polk County Publishing Company

 

Local school districts re-examine security plans

 

BY VALERIE REDDELL
Editor
polknews@gmail.com

The Sandy Creek school shooting on Dec. 14 was the 16th mass shooting in the United States in 2012, which left 88 people dead. Three of those people were killed Aug. 14 at Texas A&M University. Coming so close to Christmas and with so many cherubic victims, Sandy Creek Elementary seems to have stopped us in our tracks, but many Polk County officials had already been working to update safety plans at schools and had scheduled “active shooter” simulation training sessions for law enforcement officers and school employees. The Texas Association of School Board had sent a specially trained staff member to meet with representatives of each of the districts as well as the Polk County Office of Emergency Management to implement a simplified system to deal with an invasive threat, like an active shooter, or more commonplace emergencies like a sudden storm. When faced with a threat, “soft” targets — meaning schools, hospitals, churches and other facilities where children or other large groups of unarmed and often vulnerable people gather — can react in one of four ways: Lockout Lockdown Evacuate or Shelter. Superintendents and other key Polk County school personnel had just participated in an all-day workshop with staff from TASB, but in light of that horrible event, school officials are stepping up their plans to communicate with parents. Barbara Shaw, Director of Student Resources for Livingston ISD, reviewed the Emergency/Crisis Management Plan for the district with trustees during a regular meeting held Monday night. Several campus principals sent home “reassurance letters” Monday reminding them of school security procedures. Classes will dismiss for the Christmas holidays Friday, and after they return parents will be given a handout detailing the Standard Response Protocol and Reunification Information, in the event of a lockout, lockdown or evacuation. The Standard Response Protocol being used by all Polk County schools as part of the program was developed by the “I Love U Guys” Foundation, a group created in Bailey, Colo. after an armed drifter entered the Platte Canyon High School on Sept. 27, 2006, (years after the Columbine tragedy, and yet Colorado schools did not beef up their security).He held seven girls hostage and sexually assaulted them and ultimately shot and killed Emily Keyes. During the time she was held hostage, Emily sent her parents text messages, “I love u guys.” The “I Love U Guys” Foundation — created by Emily’s parents, John-Michael Keyes and Ellen Stoddard-Keyes — developed the Standard Response Protocol (SRP) that helps schools and first responders adopt a scalable, coordinated response to almost any emergency that could affect a school. Goodrich Superintendent Dr. Guyleen Robertson said the system works well for any of the potential hazards that could impact her small district. “We have to be alert to a chemical spill from the train tracks, an intruder off the highway, or if the dam breaks, Goodrich could be under three feet of water in a short period of time. We’ve also got a gas plant nearby,” Robertson said. “So for a community with a small population, we’ve got several potential hazards to be prepared for. This lets our teachers have a plan in mind. The SRP includes standardized language for everyone involved in the incident from classroom teachers to first responders and emergency management officials. The SRP describes each level of situation and the action expected of students and teachers. This is a preview of the plan. It will also be distributed to parents of Livingston High School students when they return to class after the Christmas holidays, or can be found on the website, www.iloveuguys.org. LOCKOUT Secure the perimeter—For a threat or hazard outside the school building. Students • Return inside the building and do business as usual. Teachers • Recover students and staff from outside the building • Maintain increased situational awareness • Do business as usual • Take roll, account for students LOCKDOWN Locks, Lights, Out of Sight — For a threat or hazard inside the school building Students • Move away from sight • Maintain silence Teachers • Lock classroom door • Lights out • Move away from sight • Maintain silence • Wait for FIRST RESPONDERS ONLY to open door. • Take roll, account for students EVACUATE to the announced type and location An evacuation is called to move students and staff from one location to another Students • Leave stuff behind • Form single file line • Take the hands of person in front and behind • Be prepared for alternatives Teachers • Grab roll sheet if possible • Lead students to Evacuations location • Take roll, account for students SHELTER Using the announced type and method Shelter is called when the need for personal protection is necessary, such as in the event of a tornado, bomb or hazardous material spill. Livingston Police Department spokesman Det. Leon Middleton said that if an emergency situation is the result of criminal activity, law enforcement officials will establish a perimeter and reunification of the students with the parents based on the situation. “I’m a parent and I understand the desire to want to rush in there and pick up your child,” Middleton said. “But depending on the situation — something like what happened in Connecticut, those kids are crucial witnesses to the crime that happened. Even though they are young, they are valuable to the investigation.” “As law enforcement officers, the first thing we have to do is get in there and get the shooter, once we’ve got him, we need to talk to the witnesses and secure evidence and that takes some time. I hope we never have anything happen here — but if we have something happen, I hope people understand and they will cooperate with us.” Polk County Emergency Management Coordinator Larry Pitts, who had a lengthy career in law enforcement, added that parents would be present for any interviews involving small children. “There’s no single answer for all situations,” Pitts said. Pitts and his staff are often in the unenviable position of trying to imagine the worst and hoping it doesn’t happen. Courtney Comstock represented Emergency Management department at the recent training by TASB on the standard response protocol and reunification method. Additional drills on specific threats are planned in January.

 

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