The shooting tragedy in Newtown, Conn., left school districts shaken to the core, but motivated to review and tighten security measures—and to reassure anxious parents.
Following the trend of school districts across the nation, at the first board meeting of 2013, the Kyrene School District reported that its administrators also enhanced policies and adopted new ones.
Superintendent Dr. David Schauer outlined a list of changed procedures, which became effective Jan. 7 and apply to visitors at each school in the district:
All visitors will be required to check in at the front desk.
All visitors will need to hand over a photo I.D. and be issued a visitor’s badge.
Employees and vendors must show their badge or will be required to follow the visitor procedure.
Visitors will not be allowed beyond the office doors without signing in, providing a photo ID, getting a visitor’s badge and being given permission to enter the school.
When leaving the school, visitors will return through the office, sign out and retrieve their photo I.D.
He also explained some additional measures that not all other districts have in place.
“Kyrene eliminated free-standing portable classrooms, removed the outside door access to classrooms, and installed the virtual video fence at all schools, where cameras operate 24 hours- a-day to act as a deterrent for unauthorized activity. “
“It is also important for parents to know that, for many years, our schools have followed a comprehensive crisis plan that requires practice lockdowns and fire drills on a regular schedule. Our district-wide crisis plan is frequently reviewed by a district crisis team that works closely with all local law enforcement and municipal emergency agencies.
“Parents should understand that any such change or perceived inconvenience is to provide the safest environment possible for our students and staff.”
While the district administrators work on the school environment, mental health professionals, such as the National Association for School Psychologists, offer tips for talking with children about the shootings, and about violence in general.
The organization’s documents emphasize reassuring children that they are safe, making time to talk with children and keeping explanations developmentally appropriate.
More information on school safety, violence, prevention, children’s trauma reactions and crisis responses, can be found at: www.nasponline.org
Although many experts recommend parents turn off the television and try to shield their children from the non-stop news about the shootings, it’s nearly impossible in the Internet era to create a media-free bubble.
Common Sense Media has information about how to help children put news in perspective, with tips specific for various age groups.
“No matter how old your kid is, threatening or upsetting news can affect them emotionally,” the website explains. See more advice at http://www.commonsensemedia.org/advice-for-parents/explaining-news-our-kids
And, finally, since violence is frequent in video games, in movies and on television, an on-line article, “How To Talk To Kids About Tragedies In The Media,” offers some thoughts on coping with a steady stream of images that may be disturbing.
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