The elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., that saw more than two dozen people — many young children — shot on Friday might have been 1,700 miles away, but school and law enforcement officials here took stock of their own security protocols and procedures.
“We are reviewing campus security procedures for an intruder and lockdown with campus staff,” said Elaina Polsen, spokeswoman for Clear Creek school district, the county’s largest public school district with 39,000-plus students and 26 elementary, 10 intermediate and 7 high school campuses.
“We will also be reminding our parents of our existing visitor check-in process and that it will be strictly enforced next week with many campus activities planned.”
Melissa Tortorici of the Texas City school district said that district conducted a similar check down of its procedures.
Superintendent Cynthia Lusignolo sent out a memo to staff shortly after the first reports of the shooting emerged.
“This is a stark reminder of the importance of our safety procedures and our check-in and screening processes for all visitors to campuses,” Lusignolo wrote to staff. “While there is no indication that this is anything but an isolated incident in a state far from Texas, we do want you to be sensitive to concerns or questions that you may get from parents regarding our own crisis processes and procedures.”
Texas City contracts its campus law enforcement to the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office, as do the Clear Creek and Dickinson school districts. Lusingolo said the sheriff’s office conducted training with campus staff and teachers in August that included a re-enactment of a school shooting.
“I am just reminding you at this time so that you can reflect back over the techniques you learned during that training to help you feel capable of purposeful action in the unlikely event this were to happen here,” she wrote in her notice.
School districts took to their websites and social media sites — including Facebook — to reach out to parents and the community. Districts had various procedures on how to communicate the shooting to students with most saying younger children weren’t informed of the incident.
In Texas City’s notice, Lusignolo noted several security enhancements done by the district as part of its 2007 bond election. Santa Fe reviewed its “proactive stance on safety and security,” spokeswoman Patti Hanssard said.
In Dickinson and Hitchcock, teachers have access to guides to help them react.
“All Dickinson ISD employees have a flip-chart Emergency Action Guide, which details the steps employees should take in the event a school facility faces an emergency situation,” Dickinson district spokeswoman Tammy Dowdy said.
Barbara Derrick, Hitchcock’s superintendent said that when Hitchcock police conducted training with her staff, changes were made to the district’s emergency plan.
Derrick made note that emergency response is a top item on the agenda for the January meeting of principals and directors.
All of the county’s school districts that responded to The Daily News’ request for information on school safety procedures said they have strict check-in procedures that in many cases require visitors to provide identification at a campus office before gaining access to the school.
Galveston was the only district that does not have a written crisis plan.
Many of the campuses have security cameras. None allowed non-law enforcement personnel to have weapons such as guns, stun guns or pepper spray.
Local law enforcement agencies were also rechecking their procedures.
“We have several officers trained to handle our active shooter response,” Galveston Police Chief Henry Poretto said. “We do a lot of training for this type of incident.”
Citing security protocols, local law enforcement agencies, including those at school campuses, would not detail their procedures, but all said they had significant training for active shooter scenarios.
“In a case such as today’s tragedy, those plans would swing into action quickly,” Galveston County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Maj. Ray Tuttoilmondo, said. “We would be working much as the law enforcement officers in Connecticut are doing right now. Addressing the matter at hand as it unfolds, joining in cooperative efforts with other emergency services, law enforcement and education resources to make sure the situation is rapidly and safely brought to resolution.”