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Home > Rules & Legislation > Letters from the Commissioner > Informational Letters > Letter 48




TO:                 Superintendents of Schools, Private School Administrators and School Principals

FROM:            Susan A. Gendron, Commissioner of Education

DATE:             November 15, 2006

SUBJECT:       Ensuring Safety in Our Schools – Response to Security Concerns and Visitor Access

In Informational Letter # 30 Ensuring Safety in Our Schools – Adequate Planning and Effective Information Exchange, October 3, 2006, I stated “…we are faced with acts of school violence in other states that remind us yet again how important our task is to remain vigilant and committed to reviewing and practicing all of the components of our individual school crisis management plans.”

The Department of Education and the Maine Emergency Management Agency have been meeting jointly to identify key elements of Mitigation and Preparation that should be incorporated into school Crisis and Response Plans.  While this planning was in process, the Lewiston Sun Journal sent a group of reporters to several central Maine schools to check the ease of access.  They found that in nearly every school visited, a period of time elapsed before anyone in the school noted or questioned their presence.  This, in light of the numerous incidents of life-threatening and dangerous behavior in schools throughout the country, reinforces the immediate need for a greater focus on school safety and security with monitored access to our schools.

The Department of Education and the Maine Emergency Management Agency, meeting jointly, identified the following key elements of Mitigation and Preparation that should be incorporated into school Crisis and Response Plans.

These include the following:

  • Establish a single point of entry for the school;
  • Limit the number of people possessing a key to the single point;
  • Utilize an identification system appropriate to the unique needs of individual schools, which vary from very small rural and island schools to city schools of one thousand or more students;
  • Require a form of  visitor’s pass that meets the safety needs of that particular school;
  • Train all school staff to effectively address the presence of any visitor who does not have a school-approved visitor pass;
  • Consider existing, as well as new, human and fiscal resources in establishing new security measures;
  • Inform all vendors and their companies that an identification system is being established in the SAU;  and 
  • Include all events, such as sports events, field trips, and weekend and evening group meetings in the security planning.

Keep in mind that security measures take more time until they become part of the daily school culture.  Moreover, principals play a key role in establishing and maintaining a security conscious environment and they need to ask the question:  “What makes the students in our school vulnerable and what actions need to be taken to keep our students safe?”

These are just a few of the steps that schools can take to improve and enhance school security.  Please refer to Informational Letter # 30 (October 3, 2006) for an extensive list of resources available to schools in the form of information, guides and reports.  I recommend that you work with your staff, local law enforcement officials, first responders and emergency preparedness personnel as you plan for ensuring student safety.

Finally, as part of an over-all campaign to muster state agencies to assist SAUs, the Department of Education, the Maine Emergency Management Agency and the Fire Marshal’s Office have planned an upcoming training and awareness program for school officials and first responders to be held on November 28, 2006.  The program will focus on All Hazards Planning with special attention on Mitigation, Prevention, Response and Recovery.  This is in addition to the November 15, 2006 web cast. 

The session is designed for local teams of 3-4 people to include Superintendents of Schools and/or School Resource Officers and representatives of local emergency management agencies such as Police, Fire, and County Emergency Management Directors.  The format for the program will include informational sessions addressing “The Value of Local Emergency Responders to the Planning Process,” and “What Does a Good All Hazards Plan Look Like Including Community Based Teaming, All Hazards Analysis, and Community and School Walk Around.” There will be ample time devoted to Table Talks such as addressing possible hazards scenarios and brainstorming solutions.

To pre-register, please fax the attached form to Nancy Bonenfant at (207) 624-6731 by November 22, 2006, or for more information about the program please contact Harvey Boatman by email or phone 624- 6884 or Edwin N. Kastuck, Ph.D., by email or by phone 624-6776.

I encourage you to pre- register right away for this very important next step in ensuring safety in our schools.

Attachment: Registration Form