Archive for Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Schools in De Soto, SMSD safe, says police captain

December 18, 2012, 12:07 p.m.

Updated: December 19, 2012, 12:00 a.m.

Parents and students in the De Soto and Shawnee Mission school districts should feel confident their schools are safe, said Shawnee Police Capt. Dan Tennis.

Speaking in the wake of the shooting that left 27 dead last Friday morning at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., Tennis assured that security measures already are in place in all local schools. They include ongoing safety drills and single points of entry, meaning visitors can only gain entrance to the schools through front offices, where they also must sign in. Daily checks are also made to make sure all doors are locked while school is in session, Tennis said.

“Police officers, just like they did in Newtown, stand ready to respond to any incident at any school at any time,” Tennis added.

In addition, local schools have the added security of a school resource officer, either through the police department where the school is located or through a district police department, such as in Shawnee Mission.

“That’s their primary mission, is school security,” Tennis said. “They’re constantly on alert to any kind of issues that are coming up. They’re constantly reviewing plans, talking to staff about safety issues. They’re the watchdogs of the school.”

In messages posted to district websites Friday afternoon, superintendents in De Soto and Shawnee Mission reassured parents that safety in schools was a top priority and, in De Soto’s case, informed parents that teachers and staff would revisit safety measures in place through crisis team meetings.

Crisis teams, made up of teachers, the school counselor and the school resource officer, had gathered for meetings prior to the end of the day Friday, said Alvie Cater, district spokesman.

“Student safety has always been a priority in our school district, but tragic events like this one remind us that we must all remain vigilant in our efforts to ensure the safety of our school communities,” said Doug Sumner, De Soto superintendent.

In his message, Shawnee Mission Superintendent Gene Johnson said security measures had been in place “for a long time.”

“As we move forward,” he said, “please be assured that the safety and security of every student and staff member in our school district community is paramount.”

Tennis didn’t elaborate further on safety protocols in schools, saying he didn’t “want to compromise the safety of our schools by giving away all the security measures that we take.”

He said parents could help by communicating with their child about personal safety, but it’s a fine line.

“Because, obviously, you don’t want to scare kids,” he said. “The district’s goal is to create a safe learning environment for children, and we don’t want kids to be paranoid or frightened about what’s going on.”

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