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Campus Police to Schools: Examine Safety Plan, Emergency Procedures

Dan Knowles, who heads Bartow County Schools' police department, shared a Monday email he sent to all school system employees following Friday's mass shooting at a Newtown, CT, elementary school.

Bartow County Schools Police Chief Dan Knowles shared a Monday email he sent to school system employees in the wake of a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.

To all Staff:

The events that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School has and will affect us all.  This is the most horrible living nightmare I could imagine for any school system.  It has been a busy morning for us, as most have expected, answering the concerns of the community as to the safety of our children. So I just wanted to pass onto you what actions are taking place and what to expect in the future.

Today as throughout the week, you will see a heightened presence of law enforcement on our campuses, with a special focus on our elementary schools. With support from Sheriff [Clark] Millsap, the Georgia State Patrol, and all of our local municipality police agencies, officers will be at the schools as much as possible.

When a tragedy such as this occurs, it changes the mindset and procedural practices in how we are to take action and respond. Hurricane Katrina changed how critical incidents are managed and coordinated.  September 11, 2001, changed homeland security as a whole, especially airline travel, and the establishment of the TSA. And Columbine significantly changed how law enforcement responds to active shooter scenarios, especially in our schools, as shown in this situation. I have heard reports and believe that the quick action of law enforcement response to this incident saved lives. I'm sure as this incident is investigated and accessed, other guidelines for our children's safety will emerge.

So now I ask that you examine your local School Safety Plan as well as the Emergency Flip Chart, and make yourself even more familiar with what actions are to be taken in different scenarios.  Also, check around you buildings and let us know what can be improved upon the enhance the physical security of the school.  You are there every day and can truly evaluate what those needs are. Things to consider; doors that may not secure well, access control in areas, radio or intercom communication, and any other item that could affect safety.

The first goal of the Bartow County School System is to provide a great education for our children.  The second goal, right next to the first, is to provide for the safety and well-being of those children.  The most we can do is prepare as best we can and practice those procedures.  Not a lot of attention has been given to it, but there was a lot that went right at Sandy Hook.  They had a Safety Plan and they used it.  The doors were locked and to enter, one had to be “buzzed” in. The staff followed lock-down procedures, which saved lives. Then they evacuated according to plan, which re-united the surviving children with family members, and provided aid to those in need. I saw an interview with one of the students and heard her say, “We went into a lock down, like we’ve practiced before.”

The Campus Police will also evaluate areas to consider for changes or improvements. Feel free to contact your assigned officer or me if you have any questions or concerns.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to those families and the school family as a whole.

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