Opinion
Education Opinion

School Preparedness Matters

By Learning First Alliance — January 15, 2013 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

By Francisco M. Negrón, Jr., General Counsel for the National School Boards Association

It is often a struggle to find something positive amidst tragedy. That is especially true in the recent massacre of innocents at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. But, as horrific as this incident was, the tragedy could have been even greater had it not been for the quick thinking and action of the many teachers and school personnel at Sandy Hook Elementary.

It was their actions that kept the remaining students out of harm’s way. Actions like teachers quickly locking classroom doors and herding children into back rooms, storage closets and other areas; reading softly to children as shots rang out; passing out crayons and coloring papers to distract young minds from the horror in the hallways.


That kind of action is no accident. It is the result of sound emergency preparedness policies enacted by school board leaders, implemented by superintendents, and carried out by teachers and school officials. It is a sad commentary of American society that violence of this magnitude is no longer reserved for the movies or video games. And it’s frightening to contemplate hypothetical attacks in disaster preparedness for our own communities. For this reason alone, the Board of Education of Newtown is to be commended for adopting an effective emergency preparedness plan. But, a plan only works if it is implemented. Much praise also should be given to the Superintendent of the Newtown Public Schools for training employees on the intricacies of the plan. Lastly, kudos are due to the valiant school employees who stuck to the plan and bravely followed their training, putting their lives ahead of the more than 700 students who were in classrooms. There is no substitute for training, training and more training &madsh; especially when it comes to emergency situations, where the clear-headed, rational action of teachers and school personnel can mean the difference between life and death.

It is because of plans and training like those in Newtown, that schools across the United States will continue to be the safe havens they are for the vast majority of students, in spite of the depraved acts of those determined to harm our children. Parents and families can help by being part of the dialogue that encourages engagement among local school district leaders, local law enforcement and the community to determine the best emergency plans for their schools. Once those partnerships are in place, schools can help by regularly training school officials on the procedures. Parents should also understand the emergency plans and should talk to their children in an age appropriate manner about following the directives of teachers and other school officials.

At Sandy Hook, Principal Hochsprung, who gave her life trying to protect her students, posted a letter on the school’s website just a few months ago, sharing part of the school’s safety plan. That plan involved locking exterior doors, limiting entrance for visitors to the front door, using a visual monitoring system before allowing visitors access, and requiring identification with “a picture id” before granting admission. The school also notified parents that it would lock all of its exterior entrances after students had arrived for class in the morning, and would even require late arriving students to be “signed in at the office.” Ever mindful of the community-school relationship, Principal Hochsprung wrote, “We need your help and cooperation for our system to work effectively.” Together with a district preparedness plan of training and drills, it seems that there may have been little else a school could do to respond to someone so intent on committing harm.

Now as we are moving forward, we can take comfort in knowing that in spite of everything, the heroes of that day, administrators, teachers, aides and school officials, did what they were trained to do, to prevent a terrible tragedy from becoming even more deadly than it was. In the end, Sandy Hook will be remembered for the heroic actions of its staff and the warm embrace of its community.

Views expressed in this post are strictly those of the author and do
not reflect the endorsement of the Learning First Alliance or any of its
members.

The opinions expressed in Transforming Learning are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP
Education Massachusetts National Guard to Help With Busing Students to School
250 guard personnel will be available to serve as drivers of school transport vans, as districts nationwide struggle to hire enough drivers.
1 min read
Massachusetts National Guard soldiers help with logistics in this Friday, April 17, 2020 file photo, at a food distribution site outside City Hall, in Chelsea, Mass. Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, activated the state's National Guard to help with busing students to school as districts across the country struggle to hire enough drivers.
Massachusetts National Guard soldiers help with logistics in this Friday, April 17, 2020 file photo, at a food distribution site outside City Hall, in Chelsea, Mass.
Michael Dwyer/AP
Education FDA: ‘Very, Very Hopeful’ COVID Shots Will Be Ready for Younger Kids This Year
Dr. Peter Marks said he is hopeful that COVID-19 vaccinations for 5- to 11-year-olds will be underway by year’s end. Maybe sooner.
4 min read
Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research in the Food and Drug Administration, testifies during a Senate health, education, labor, and pensions hearing to examine an update from federal officials on efforts to combat COVID-19 on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 11, 2021. On Friday, Sept. 10, 2021, Marks urged parents to be patient, saying the agency will rapidly evaluate vaccines for 5- to 11-year-olds as soon as it gets the needed data.
Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research in the Food and Drug Administration, testifies during a Senate health, education, labor, and pensions hearing to examine an update from federal officials on efforts to combat COVID-19 on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 11, 2021.
Jim Lo Scalzo/AP