Students lead from school after shooting

Connecticut state police lead children from the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., following a shooting there Friday. Authorities said a gunman opened fire at the school, leaving 27 people dead, including 20 children.

Shannon Hicks, Newtown Bee

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.”

Contact Mainland Editor T.J. Aulds at 409-683-5334 or tjaulds@galvnews.com.

(9) comments

Lars Faltskog

I'm of the opinion more and more that security at all of our schools need to be regarded in much the same way as security at banks are. That is, at the VERY front entryway of schools there needs to be a permanent and armed guard. And, that is the definitive first step of entry to the institution.

Oftentimes, the scenario is that a volitile person shows up in the front office and let's face it, the hard-working receptionists/office assistants and school secretaries are not equipped to ward off potential dangerous person(s).

There's often talk that teachers should be armed? That is a foolish premise. Most teachers are not into weaponry. And, imagine a somewhat non-coordinated teacher's gun in her purse on her desk, and one of the stickyfingered students gets ahold of it.

Gary Miller

Arming teachers need not include guns. Some, CHL or NRA, teachers may be better trained with guns than the average "armed guard".
Brown Bear pepper spray can stop a bear at 30 ft. Teacher should have it on desk.
If a sticky finger student gets it all they can do with it is get themselves in trouble.
Classroom door locks would be useful if the teacher was bright enough to use them. Several reports say the two classrooms the shooter attacked had door locks but were not locked. After hearing the gunshots on the intercom why didn't those teachers lock their door?
The only advantage of calling 911 is getting the investigation started sooner.

Island Bred

It's time to live in a world where these type of choices aren't choices at all. Armed teachers, pepper spray, and armed guards in grade school?

How bout better mental health care, options for loved ones that are unstable, less assault weapons available, smaller clips, responsible gun ownership, a society where violence isn't the norm, and get the lobbiests out of my legilators back pocket. I'm not so fearful of losing freedom that I'm willing to pay for the way we have been for the past 10 or 30 decades.

Peace and Comfort to the small town of Newton and to the gun violence victims who we haven't heard of since Friday last week. We all need to be appalled into action.

Lars Faltskog

Well, Bred...the reality is that we may never go back to the days when the worst things going on in schools is gumchewing and running in the halls. Just as we've had to lock our doors and take keys out of our cars when we go into the Talbot shoe/dress store, we need - IMHO - armed officers in every school in every case.

Hopefully, in time we can become a more mentally healthy nation where this kind of thing indeed becomes a thing of the past. I'm afraid there's no going back now.

Now, I do respectfully disagree with IHOG's stance that it would be OK for teachers to have pepperspray. Truth is, the children WILL get to it. It could cause injury and then down the road a lawsuit - waiting to happen. Regarding locks on doors - it used to be that school principals did not want teachers to lock their doors so that campus police or principal-type people could easily get in the classrooms. It was once thought that if a teacher locked his/her door, "there was something to hide". Administrators wanted to drop by, open the door at will, to see how good instruction was going on. Now....I hear it's big practice TO lock the doors.

Again, if the schools all had an armoured truck-type shatterproof entryway, with gun detectors (like airports)....then at least a crazy loon with a visitors' sticker would only have his/her gelled-out brain walking over to visit little John's classroom - instead of automatic weapons.

Kevin Lang

Supposing that Sandy Hook had an armed guard, what's to say that Adam Lanza wouldn't have been equipped to win that battle? Assuming the teachers were armed, what's to say he wouldn't have been able to shoot first? If he managed to kill even one person, we still would be talking about a tragedy. I'm not saying that we don't try those options, but to say that those options would prevent such tragedies or even reduce the number of victims is pure conjecture. He was essentially a rabid kamikaze. He knew he wasn't coming out alive.

If you aren't in the direct line of fire, calling 911 is a wise choice. If you're not in a position where you can stop the carnage, getting the police on the way offers the opportunity to get numbers on your side.

Lars Faltskog

Agreed on both points. Yes, mentall illness should be non-stigmitized. We're all ill with one thing or the other. Some mentally, others physically. We all have vices and obsessions, etc. Therapy is a great thing.

Regarding the armed guard debate. Yes, the fool could have/would have gotten through the armed guard. But, just maybe, the time it takes to kill an armed guard in a shatterproof bank-type glass shield BEFORE even going into the main part of the school - just maybe that can buy time, get the loudspeaker announcement/warning that "Mr. Newtown is in the building" - and classrooms can be locked and secured. Body count - maybe an armed guard, receptionist, and the 1st administrator to see what the riggermorole is. But, not 20 schoolchildren and a few tchrs and support staff. Like I say, just maybe. When I see banks and some convenience stores with the shatterproof plexiglass (and all the architects/engineers that could be hired)....perhaps schools one day will have a different look. Unfortunately, they might all end up looking like high-security prisons, with barbed wire and so on. Gone are the days of Little House on the Prairie clapboarded schoolhouses.

Kevin Lang

I think we'd make a lot of progress if we ditched the social stigma associated with treatment for mental illness. Society shouldn't look at mental illness any differently than we do the flu.

Lars Faltskog

See my responses way down the line through all of these space-wasting bubbles.[beam]

Kevin Lang

Well, I can hear some people saying that schools should look like prisons--prepares the kids for what their "home" in the future will look like. It would sure be nice if our generation would get around to giving our descendants a future at least as good as what we inherited, but I think we're just to selfish for that.

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