Although the state of Delaware is hundreds of miles from Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. concern over school safety is very much present at districts around the state.
Many school districts in Delaware are taking time to go over their security plans with teachers and faculty members and assure parents that a secure plan is in place.
Colonial School district is an example of the impact of the Friday shooting around the state. Superintendent Dorothy Linn sent out a message via the district’s web page on Saturday morning expressing her concern and providing counseling resources for parents.
In light of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in which a gunman took the lives of 27 victims before turning the gun on himself, Linn said the school district will be reviewing their security measures.
“Within each of the crisis plans there should be a component of what to do if someone is in the building and has not signed in and does not have a visitors badge, but what we are going to do is reassess each of our plans and consult with somebody, and I don’t know who this person would be, but get somebody who understands safety in schools and have them evaluate our schools and see what we can do to improve,” said Linn. “What I believe we need to work on is the response to situations are because when you look at what happened in Connecticut, they were doing everything, they had a very good plan in place and it still occurred but the response was tremendous from within in the building and the administrators.”
According to Lewis Schiliro, secretary of the Department of Safety and Homeland Security, every school district and charter school in the state are required to have a security plan in place under current Department of Education regulations. They must also drill those plans at least once a year. Linn added that the Colonial District practices drills once a month and rotates between fire drills and crisis drills.
Schiliro added that the state is in the process of implementing the Omnibus School Safety Act, a school safety bill passed by the general assembly last year.
“What that did was shifted responsibility of these plans from the Department of Education to the Department of Safety and Homeland Security,” explained Schiliro. “The other thing that the bill did was require those plans to be consistent so we will have one plan, the same model for each one of the 209 public and charter schools in this state.”
The state is testing the plan in 30 schools with the goal of adding 50 schools a year. The systematic plan is the first of its kind in the country and Governor Jack Markell said it will enhance the effectiveness of first responders.
“We’re basically contracting this out to retired troopers, and other officers and the like to do really high quality plans because we’ve had school safety plans for a long time, but the quality of them was very mixed,” said Markell. “First responders need to know when they get to the school what the layout of the school looks like, what they are going to encounter.”
Schriliro added that when a tragedy happens, it’s important to learn as much possible from the incident to better enhance security measures.
“The one thing we have learned without any question in terms of the planning process and response is that our teachers and our administrators are our true first responders,” said Schriliro. “That’s what this is all about. They’re the ones that are going to be there if God forbid, a tragedy should occur and they’re really the ones we need to prepare to deal with it.”
Resources are available to help children deal with the recent Newtown tragedy. The National Association of School Psychologists and the Lucy Daniels Center provides information on helping children understand school violence.