MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - Mobile and Baldwin County Public School Officials responded to a deadly shooting in Newtown, Conn. that left 20 schoolchildren and 6 adults in an elementary school dead.
In addition to leaving a small town reeling, parents of 20 6 and 7-year-olds planning funerals around the holidays and a country in shock, the shooting has raised questions of security in schools and local school officials responded to those concerns.
From Dr. Alan T. Lee, Superintendent Baldwin County Schools:
Good afternoon Parents, School Personnel and Community Friends –
The response to the Connecticut school deaths has been continuous and heartening, as many of you have expressed your sorrow, concerns, and suggestions of how to keep our Baldwin County children safe. Thank you to all who have made contact. I apologize for not being able to respond personally to each one of you.
I have been in contact with Sheriff Mack, and he with local chiefs of police, as we consider what efforts we can use to keep our schools safe havens for our most precious possessions. There has already been a more visible presence of law enforcement officers at our schools across the county. We will continue to work together to make things safer.
I am heartbroken by the tragedy. I never want to permit the same to happen here. As parents have inquired about just how safe our schools are, there are some truths that are ever present and telling. We can do a better job of screening those who enter our buildings, and can reduce casual access to our facilities.
However, as in Connecticut, at Virginia Tech, and at Columbine, school staff are not trained or equipped to repel a determined terrorist who wants to hurt students. All of our efforts and plans to date are in some measure effective in regard to those who are merely angry, or who should not be in our buildings associating with our children. But nothing that we currently have in place could intervene to stop a murderer, who is armed and will get through locked doors and camera systems. Security efforts at the Connecticut school did not stop the mayhem and loss of life there.
Governments were formed in large part to do for the people what they could not do for themselves. In the realm of public safety, police departments and fire departments were formed. In the case of protecting children who are required to attend school, our society has not done what is necessary. I believe that the only way we can be confident that our schools are safe is to assign a well-trained, well-equipped law enforcement officer to each school. One officer may not be enough to neutralize an attacker, but he or she has a much better chance of doing that than does a principal, teacher, or custodian who stands unarmed between the terrorist and our children.
Some may react and suggest that the schools need to provide security guards. I would submit that if a school building burned somewhere causing loss of life, schools would not be expected to build a fire station and train firemen. Government would do what is necessary to improve fire safety. We have an outstanding Sheriff and a Sheriff's Office that is the appropriate agency to provide the additional safety. That proposed increase in staffing and the associated costs need to be provided by local government as a cost of keeping us safe. That is its job. There is no higher need.
I estimate that it will cost our county $3.5 million annually, or 66 cents per day per child, to hire, train, and equip a law enforcement officer for each of our schools. It is my opinion that spending such a small amount to assure safety is a good investment on our government's part, and that such an investment should take precedence over infrastructure costs, etc.
I hope you will join me in making this request.
From Martha Peek, Superintendent Baldwin County Public Schools System:
Please join me in remembering the families and school personnel in Connecticut. Let us all keep them in our thoughts and prayers as they deal with the devastating tragedy that occurred there.
Governor Bentley has directed that flags be flown at half-staff in honor of those who lost their lives. You will see all flags in MCPSS schools flying at half-staff in accordance with this directive and our hearts will be with all who lost loved ones.
We also want to assure everyone in the community we serve that we will remain ever vigilant regarding safety and security of our students.
- All schools and the school system have a safety plan.
- All schools review the safety plans with students and staff and conduct regular drills.
- All schools have a process for admitting persons to the schools and require identification.
- All staff members are alert to safety procedures and monitor the buildings and grounds.
Student safety and school security is a priority in the Mobile County Public Schools.
We know it can be difficult for
parents to talk about this kind of violence with their children. Here is a link to a resource which can be helpful with these conversations. http://www.nasponline.org/resources/crisis_safety/talkingviolence.pdf
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