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UPDATE: Local Schools React To Newtown Killing

School districts in Niles, Morton Grove, Des Plaines and Park Ridge are communicating with parents and reviewing safety plans.

 

UPDATED with information from additional schools.

The mass shooting at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Conn. is reverberating around the nation, and schools in Chicago's suburbs are as shaken as any.

In Connecticut, 27 people, including 20 children, are reported dead after a gunman burst into the school.

Ongoing Coverage: Police investigating two sites after tragedy unfolds at Connecticut school shooting

Niles Police Sergeant Ron Brandt said the department has not received any threats but is keeping an eye on schools. 

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"We're doing our normal vigilant patrols around schools," he said.

Following are reactions from local school districts. Patch asked them if they have a security plan in place, if they have a means of communicating with parents in the event of an emergency, and if they took extra precautions or modified activities Friday.

East Maine Elementary District 63 

Dr. Scott Clay, Superintendent, emailed parents to tell them the district places a top priority on safety. Security measures include locking all exterior school doors, reminding staff and students not to open doors for others, buzzing in visitors, holding lockdown drills and meeting annually with local police and fire officials to review safety plans. 

Clay also said he and administrators met with the district's social workers to come up with a plan for Monday "in case some children need extra support out of their sadness or their fears."

District personnel may initiate conversations with older students, he said.

"We're reminding teachers that kids react differently," he said. "Some react two or three days later."

Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 

Dr. Philip Bender, Superintendent:

Yes (to the questions of whether there is a security plan in place and a means of contacting parents) and parents have been contacted concerning the tragedy of today and how to deal with it with their children over the weekend.

Our message is that we are always looking to provide quality safety and security at all times, not just when a tragedy occurs.  As superintendent, I take it very seriously that our parents entrust to us each and every day over 4,300 students to take care of them.  Be assured that is our responsibility, first and foremost, each and everyday.

We are saddened by the acts of today and encourage our parents and community to talk cautiously about the events.  We want our community to know our schools are safe and secure ALL of the time.

Park View Elementary District 70

The following letter was sent to parents by superintendent.

We are deeply troubled to hear about a shooting at a Connecticut elementary school today. Sadly, the number of those who lost their lives has increased throughout the day at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. As of this report, there are accounts of approximately 30 dead, many of whom are elementary-age-students. The shooter is also reported to be dead.

This is a stark reminder of the importance of our safety procedures and our check-in for all visitors to Park View. While there is no indication that this is anything but an isolated incident far away from Morton Grove, we do want to take this opportunity to remind all of our families that we conduct regular drills, including those for a building lockdown, and that we have double safety/security doors at the main entrance to the school. All visitors to Park View must enter and sign in with the school office. Other exterior doors to the building remain locked at all times and only staff can access those doors with their key card.

These are just some of the procedures that we have in place to help ensure student safety and security. Certainly in this day and age we can never be absolutely protected against all circumstances, but we do educate staff throughout the year and rely on our parents to help us ensure we enforce our own procedures.

We know that children may raise questions and concerns about this tragedy. The American Psychological Association (APA) indicates several tips for parents to consider:

Talk with your child -
If children ask questions, talking to them about their worries and concerns is the first step to help them feel safe and begin to cope with the events occurring around them. What you talk about and how you say it does depend on their age, but all children need to be able to know you are there and listening to them.

Keep home a safe place -
Children, regardless of age, often find home to be a safe haven when the world around them becomes overwhelming. During times of crisis, it is important to remember that your children may come home seeking the safe feeling they have being there.  

Watch for signs of stress, fear or anxiety -
After a traumatic event, it is typical for children (and adults) to experience a wide range of emotions including fearfulness, shock, anger, grief and anxiety. Your children's behaviors may change because of their response to the event. They may experience trouble sleeping, difficulty with concentrating on schoolwork, or changes in appetite. This is normal for everyone and should begin to disappear in a few months.

Take "news breaks" - Your children may want to keep informed by gathering information about the event from the internet, television, or newspapers. It is important to limit the amount of time spent watching the news because constant exposure may actually heighten their anxiety and fears

If you have any questions or concerns, you are always welcome to contact Ms. Wings, Mr. Pump, Ms. Hart or me. Please know we have a school psychologist and two social workers at Park View who can assist parents in talking with their children or answering questions.

Our thoughts go out to all of the families impacted by this tragedy and the many educators who have been devastated today by the loss of their children and colleagues.

Niles Elementary School District 71 (Culver School)

Dr. Amy Kruppe, Superintendent: 

We do have a security plan in  place. Due to the security precautions that are needed for our students, I can not share it with you so we would not compromise our school.  We meet yearly with the police and fire officials to review these plans. This certainly will give us cause to look at lessons learned and determine if any modification to our plan needs to take place.

We did not take extra precautions, nor did we modify activities. At this time students should not be aware of what is going on because they were engaged in school.  We look toward the parents to determine if they should speak with their students regarding this tragic event.  We did however put on our website some parental guidance and sent out a note to parents and staff regarding this document. We certainly will have our social worker and psychologist available if any students have concerns or are having difficulties regarding this event.

Niles Elementary School will keep the victims, their families and the staff of Newtown Connecticut in our hearts and thoughts during this difficult time.

Maine Township High School District 207

Dave Beery, communications director: 

We have a phone alert system that would enable us to send any emergency message to parents quickly.

All of our schools have  detailed crisis plans in place.

Other districts

Patch. com has also contacted Golf District 67 and Niles Community High School District 219. As this is a developing story, we will update if they provide responses.

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Harry Gio December 16, 2012 at 08:27 PM
This tragedy would have NOT happened if ALL doors were locked, metal detectors were at the entrance and armed guards were at the school... The world is becoming more and more dangerous, so maybe the federal government shouldn't keep sending billions of dollars overseas (to countries that hate us) and start spending it on the safety of the tax payers..............

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