St. Mary Parish school security reviewed after massacre
CENTERVILLE, La. — Thoughts of the lives lost in Friday’s Sandy Hook Elementary massacre weigh heavily on American minds as they progress into their first school day since the shooting Friday, and school administrators are taking a hard look at security measures in their own districts.
Locally, Superintendent Donald Aguillard directed employees to readdress crisis management, assist students with expressing their grief and control access to each school building.
From an email he sent to principals this morning: “I know that the tragic loss of innocent life surrounding the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting weighs heavily on your minds. I have personally wrestled with what more we might be able to do if ever faced with a similar rampage.
“Please review your local Crisis Response Plan to make certain your staff is prepared to address crisis management. Staff should be reminded that students may need help dealing with and attempting to understand the Sandy Hook tragedy. Please do not hesitate to contact Mrs. Diane Wiltz should you need any assistance dealing with student expressions of grief.
“I urge you to make certain that your school utilizes a single point of entry to your building. Schools may also wish to practice their lockdown procedures and work closely with local law enforcement agencies to review safety issues.
“In the interim, (Maintenance Supervisor Brad) Wiese will be immediately assessing capacity to provide a single locked point of entry with video camera coverage. Initial thoughts are that a buzzer would be used to allow access into the building. We will be responding aggressively to provide a level of security to address each school’s single point of entry.”
Aguillard said Wiese began visiting schools this morning to look at securing their single point of entry and will work quickly to provide a heightened level of security at that entry point.
Meanwhile, all schools can access the JPAMS automated calling feature to broadcast a message if such should be needed. Currently, they are most commonly used to notify parents of school dances, picture days, absences or tardies.
Kevin Derise, chief technology officer, will be checking on the ability to utilize the same capability from the district office, Aguillard said.
Most importantly, the superintendent wished to impress upon parents and the community at large that the school system is reviewing its “already well-rehearsed crisis response drills and will be meeting this week with local law enforcement to discuss lockdown procedures, active shooter response and other crisis response improvement protocols.”
St. Mary’s response is similar to those nationwide where, in an effort to ensure their students’ safety and calm parents’ nerves, school districts across the United States have asked police departments to increase patrols and have sent messages to parents outlining safety plans that they assured them are regularly reviewed and rehearsed.
Some officials refused to discuss plans publicly in detail, but it was clear that vigilance will be high this week at schools everywhere in the aftermath of one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history: Twenty-six people were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, most children ages 6 and 7. The gunman then shot and killed himself.