The mass shooting at a Florida high school last week that left 17 people dead has prompted local school administrators to lend their voices to the discussion and reassure parents of the measures they’re taking to protect students.
Plainfield Community Consolidated School District 202 Superintendent Lane Abrell and Valley View Community Unit School District 365U Superintendent James Mitchem both penned letters to their district communities responding to the news of the shooting.
“It is difficult for any of us to find the right words in the aftermath of the horrible events in Parkland, Florida,” Mitchem wrote. “The truth is there are no words that can truly provide total comfort.”
“Unfortunately, I can no more explain this particular shooting than I can any of the dozens that have happened in recent years,” Abrell wrote. “How can anyone explain the dark impulse to hurt and kill innocent children?”
Both men wanted to inform the parents in their district about what measures they have been taking to prepare in the event of an emergency at one of their schools.
“We have taken many steps in recent years to improve security in and around our schools – for example, locking all doors during the school day, requiring everyone to buzz in, and regularly training and practicing appropriate responses with our students and staff,” Abrell wrote.
Abrell also talked about the implementation of the newest “best practice” response system called ALICE, which he said the community will soon hear more about as the district begins training staff and students. He described ALICE as a new approach to dealing with intruders where teachers and staff have the ability to respond in “the most logical and efficient way to each situation, rather than being locked down to a single plan or protocol.”
Mitchem cited collaborations with local law enforcement in Valley View’s preparation.
“Our security and safety plans have been developed with the assistance of local law enforcement officers who make regular visits to our schools, so they have a thorough understanding of the layout of our buildings,” Mitchem wrote. “We also meet with law enforcement on a regular basis to review strategies and continually improve our practices.”
Abrell also wanted to address other possible means of security, saying that some have wanted the district to build entry barriers, hire private security or install metal detectors.
“We certainly understand that line of thought, however, at this time, District 202 is not moving in that direction,” he wrote. “We believe it is important for our students’ and staff’s emotional well-being that our schools feel like schools and not fortresses.”
Mitchem stressed the importance of the wider communities role in preventing such tragedies.
“Quite simply, if you see something or know something, say something,” he wrote. “If you know of a student who is struggling, keep in mind we have comprehensive student services teams at every one of our schools. We are here to help and we have the people in place who work every day to make a difference in the lives of kids.”