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Local schools to revisit active-shooter plan, provide counseling

Posted on Monday, December 17, 2012 at 12:18 pm

After a gunman blasted his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Friday killing 20 students, the principal, school psychologist and teachers, Coffee County school leaders are revisiting their plans of action should such a tragedy occur here.

Over the weekend, Coffee County Director of Schools Dr. LaDonna McFall sent out an email to school staff asking each person in the system to “revisit their roll in school safety.”

“Anytime a tragedy such as this happens we take the time to revisit policy and procedures and make sure we are practicing those,” said McFall, a first-year director with Coffee County Schools. “People are our most important resources and we want to make sure they understand the procedures necessary to keep our schools as safe as possible.”

Moving forward, communication with local law enforcement could be key for the school system to ensure everyone is on the same page.

A woman waits to hear about her sister, a teacher, following a shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. where authorities say a gunman opened fire, leaving 27 people dead, including 20 children, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. (AP photo by Jessica Hill)

“Our county deputies do drive by the schools and they are more than willing to come when we ask,” said McFall, who added that school resource officers are stationed at Central High School and Coffee County Middle School. However, each of the county’s six elementary schools and Manchester City Schools’ three schools do not have school resource officers present.

“I am going to try to meet with sheriff [Steve] Graves and talk with him. With me being new I want to make sure there is a plan in place to be as ready as we can be for a situation like that.”

Graves said his deputies are encouraged to make a presence at each school.

“We encourage our officers to walk through the schools,” he said.

Manchester Police Chief Mark Yother also said he tries to ensure officers are present in schools, as well.

“We have been showing more visibility in the schools all year and hopefully that visibility and availability will stop something before it starts,” said Yother, who said his officers and Coffee County deputies are trained in active shooter scenarios.

“Sometimes you have a tendency to relax some but you can’t ever relax,” added Yother. “We have been concentrating on visibility, even in high shopping areas like Walmart to deter crime and acts like this.”

With preparations and safety precautions vigorously being revisited by McFall and local law enforcement, the question remains regarding the psychology of students. Coffee County students return to school this week (Monday-Wednesday) and will inevitably be laced with questions surrounding the Sandy Hook tragedy. Manchester City Schools are out for Christmas break beginning this week. McFall said principals have been given tools to answer those questions.

Read the complete story and a story on how local law enforcement are approaching the situation in this week’s (Dec. 19) print edition of the Manchester Times.