The recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut is a stark reminder that no community is immune to random acts of violence. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the Sandy Hook incident and their families; I know yours are too. As school leaders, it is critical that we do all we can to prevent violence in our schools and that we are prepared to respond.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time our country and our schools have had to address these safety and security concerns. When I took office in 2007, our nation was still reeling from a tragedy that took place in a rural Amish community in Pennsylvania. Therefore, to gain a better understanding of school vulnerabilities and readiness to respond to crisis, we secured funding from the Idaho Legislature to conduct a statewide school safety and security assessment in Fall 2007. This assessment included surveys, site visits, focus groups, and community meetings. Although some results were concerning (lack of training and resources, inability to control access to buildings, outdated / inoperable security equipment), a very promising and not surprising finding emerged: school personnel and communities are highly supportive and understanding of the need to address security and make safety improvements in our schools.
Based on the results of the assessment, the state worked closely with local school districts to develop recommendations and improve safety and security for all students. Here are just some of the steps we took at that time:
In 2008, many of you used these recommendations to take a closer look at your school safety procedures and protocols. Now is a good time to work with your communities and address these processes again. Here are some steps I would encourage you to take today in working with your educators, parents, and community members.
Incidents like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary quickly bring issues of school safety to the forefront. In the aftermath of a tragedy, we never want to look back and ask ourselves, "Could we have done more, or should we have done more?" In light of this, the Idaho State Department of Education will reconvene the School Safety and Security Stakeholder Group in January 2013 to discuss school safety and security and next steps going forward.
Thank you for your work supporting the success and safety of Idaho students. My staff and I stand ready to assist your efforts.
If you have any questions, please contact Matt McCarter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction