Two days prior to the tragic school shooting in Newtown, CT, my co-worker’s daughter’s school had a lockdown due to a student bringing a gun into the school. My co-worker, a retired police officer and coincidently from Connecticut, was in Virginia with me on business when it occurred. This prompted us to have a lengthy discussion regarding overall school safety and what changes he would recommend for his daughter’s school. Sadly, I didn’t even know what my own children’s school policy and procedures were for this type of incident. The next evening (Thursday), my co-worker voiced his concerns to a few members of the school’s PTO and business community. Then Friday, the tragedy occurred. He and I were totally heartbroken.
This tragedy caused me to have serious conversations with my children and what protocols they are taught should a tragedy such as this occur. I normally leave these conversations to my husband who is a retired police officer and very active in the school (a private K3-12 institution), but I wanted to know for myself that my children will be as safe as possible. I already had a few concerns regarding visitors and past students having too much open access to the school. Although the school has a very friendly and family-oriented atmosphere, you still cannot be too careful. Just in 2001 during the Washington, DC, sniper attacks, the snipers were in the school’s neighborhood. Trust me, that is still very much on my mind.
I must say what my oldest child and my niece (who also attends the school), 12th and 10th grades, told me their procedures were during an active shooter lockdown disturbed me. It was vastly different from what my son in 2nd grade is supposed to do. On December 18, NCPC released a press release to offer tips and resources to parents, students, and educators, along with our School Safety Toolkit and other resources. Armed with this information, I gave it to the school’s director. The school, with thousands of other schools across the country, reexamined its policies and procedures on school safety. My husband assisted the school’s director with a safety drill on January 4. As a result, necessary changes have been made.
I would like to urge parents to become an active partner with your children and in their schools. Whether it is attending a sporting event or school play; a more serious matter such as your child being bullied or approached by a gang; or the unthinkable – a school shooting such as Newtown, as a parent, you have the power to inform, make suggestions, and play an active role in the safety and security of your child. Don’t be a bystander in their lives. Your partnership could make a critical difference in creating a safe, caring, and thriving environment for not only your child but also for the entire school population as well.