Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, may be far away in miles, but the tragedy that occurred there Friday morning hits close to home for parents in Lemont, who may worry about the safety of their own children's schools.
Friday afternoon, Lemont-Bromberek District 113A Superintendent Susan Birkenmaier sent a letter home to Lemont parents, offering tips on how they might help their children cope with news of the tragedy - and assuring them that District 113A takes the safety of its students, staff and visitors “extremely seriously.”
“While there is no plan that can totally prevent a random act of senseless violence like this, our district has a school safety plan in place that has been developed in close partnership with law enforcement authorities and regularly practiced by our faculty and staff,” Birkenmaier wrote.
A PDF of the superintendent’s letter in its entirety and a copy of “Talking to Children About Violence” by the National Association of School Psychologists are attached to this story.
What steps do local schools take to keep kids safe?
Birkenmaier outlined several safeguards in place to prevent violence in District 113A schools. She reminds students and parents that the district:
- Considers the safety of students and staff of utmost importance.
- Keeps all doors locked at all times.
- Requires visitors to sign in and in some cases, provide identification, at the school or district office - and state the purpose of their visit.
- Annually completes emergency response drills with student and staff participation.
- Maintains a strong working relationship with local emergency responders.
- Relies on parents to allow the district to focus on the safety of all children during an emergency.
- Will appoint a sole district communicator who will provide accurate information to parents and the community as it becomes available.
- Encourages parents to seek their information from informed and credible sources and not rely on student or staff texts to relay information about the event.
- Will not release students or staff from the schools until the fire and police agencies complete their work, which can include post-event investigation. This process could take several hours.
- Will not be able to provide information to individuals who call the school directly. The appointed district communicator will provide all available information.
Police chief reacts to tragedy
“Unfortunately, it’s a scenario that just keeps repeating,” Lemont Police Chief Kevin Shaughnessy said of the shooting in Connecticut. Ironically, he said, police officers happened to be conducting safety drills at a school in Lemont on Friday while the tragedy was unfolding.
“Our officers were doing a safety drill and holding a D.A.R.E. graduation at St. Cyril’s,” Shaughnessy said. “We do regular safety drills with all the schools in Lemont. We work with the schools as often as we can to train for how [school staff] handle certain situations.”
Training aside, Birkenmaier urged community members to be proactive in helping to prevent school violence from occurring in the first place.
“The holidays can be a stressful time for some individuals,” Birkenmaier said. “If you believe someone is in danger or if you see behavior that is unusual, please contact the school principal, school psychologist, social worker or nurse. We are happy to assist in keeping everyone safe.”
Editor's note: For more information on the events in Connecticut as they unfold, follow Newtown Patch’s coverage of the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy.
How do you plan to answer your childen's questions about the events in Connecticut? Tell us in the comments below.
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