School Safety - Sandy Hook
Questions and Answers
The Maine Department of Education has prepared this list of frequently asked questions and answers, related to the Sandy Hook incident.
- Is Maine prepared?
- What systems are in place at Maine schools? Are there required protocols?
- What should we as parents be saying to our kids?
- What should schools be doing to counsel students?
- Can school culture/climate make a difference in these shooter situations?
Is Maine prepared?
- Yes. Maine has moved significantly in this area since Columbine, as has every state in the country.
- Most recently, the Legislature passed requirements in 2007 for Comprehensive Emergency Management Plans for every school district.
- Older plans were “crisis plans,” focused on what to do if an incident occurred. The new plans address all kinds of hazards – shootings, bomb threats, hurricanes, chemical spills, etc.
- First responders are required to be part of the plan development process before the school board approves a plan. Schools work with county Emergency Management Agencies, fire, rescue, state, local and/or county law enforcement.
- The Maine Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) takes a significant role in providing assistance to school districts on emergency planning.
- Schools are required to confirm annually, through their school approval form, that the school board annually reviews and approves their plan.
What systems are in place at Maine schools? Are there required protocols?
- TThose are developed by schools in conjunction with emergency personnel – they are the experts, and each school setting is unique.
- All new buildings built through the state program have double sets of doors with the second set locked and requiring buzz in.
- Older schools may not have the same features. We encourage all schools to configure their entrances so that office personnel can see the front doors, and all other doors should be locked.
- Remember – all schools must have a comprehensive emergency management plan developed in collaboration with emergency personnel – the experts.
What should we as parents be saying to our kids?
- While we as adults may feel the need to get all the information we can, kids don’t need that.
- We should ask kids if they have heard about it and what they have heard. If they haven’t heard, you can tell them you’re available if they hear something and have questions for you.
- Remind young kids that there are lots of helpers around when bad things happen, and bad things don’t happen very often.
- Keep it simple – you don’t need to give kids a lot of information.
- Keep it short, and stay calm.
What should schools be doing to counsel students?
- Maine schools are very well equipped to support students on these sorts of issues.
- Similar to parents, schools need to address concerns that students have, but not bring the issue up or make kids talk about it.
- If kids can’t focus because they are thinking about it, that may be a time to put aside the math and listen to kids and answer their questions. Especially students in middle or high school.
- Middle school and high school kids may want to know what is in place at their own school, to ensure their safety.
Can school culture/climate make a difference in these shooter situations?
- Remember – the incident at Sandy Hook was not caused by a student at the school. We don’t know yet the dynamic between the attacker and the school.
- Often, there have been signs – the shooter said something strange or scary, or even told someone he was planning violence.
- We have to create a culture and climate in which students are comfortable and expected to report any peer mistreatment, and if they’ve heard about someone who might do anything to hurt someone – even a fight after school. They need to know it is OK to come forward.
- This culture is crucial – having a speaker come in once a year to talk about tolerance and bullying will not solve the problem.
- We need schools with stronger connections and strong relationships: student-to-student, student-to-staff and staff-to-staff.