Tulsa-area schools react to news of massacre
BY KIM ARCHER & SARA PLUMMER World Staff Writers
Saturday, December 15, 2012
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From secured double doors to "intruder-on-campus" drills, Tulsa-area public and private schools do everything possible to keep students safe.
But even those measures may not be enough to stop the kind of violence seen Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
"It may not be that schools can anticipate every threat someone who is determined to do harm can present, but we can continue to stress the importance of personal vigilance and adherence to the effective safety measures we have in place," said Charlie Bushyhead, Union Public Schools assistant superintendent of support services.
News early Friday that a gunman shot and killed six adults and 20 children at a Connecticut elementary school shook Tulsa-area school administrators, teachers and parents.
"Things like this, it's horrifying. I mean, it's your worst nightmare," said Owasso Superintendent Clark Ogilvie. "I just don't know how an adult can open fire on kids like that. I don't get that at all."
On Friday, Jenks Public Schools increased police presence on all campuses to assure parents that their children's safety is the top priority, said spokeswoman Bonnie Rogers.
Several area districts responded to the shooting by sending messages to parents outlining their crisis plans.
Public and private schools throughout the Tulsa area also rely on administrators, teachers, parents and students to report anything suspicious.
"What we say here is 'If you see something or hear something, say something,' " Rogers said.
Public and private schools have a host of emergency policies in place to protect students, including frequent "intruder-on-campus" drills and visitor check-in systems.
School emergency procedures are constantly being reviewed and revised, when necessary.
"If anything comes to light from this tragedy, we may make changes to our policies," said Liz Anderson, Holland Hall's communications director.
Most area schools also have secure double doors that individuals must be buzzed through by office staff after providing identification.
Early news reports indicated the Sandy Hook Elementary School had such a system, leading several Tulsa-area administrators to surmise the shooter was familiar to office staff.
"It keeps out the threats that are visible to you," Tulsa Public Schools campus Police Chief Gary Rudick said of the secure door system.
"If you're letting in someone who you know ... and you let them in and then there is a threat there that you don't recognize, then I don't think there's any way to prevent that."
School officials throughout the Tulsa area expressed their shock and grief about the shooting.
"All we feel is sorrow," said Matt Vereecke, Monte Cassino School director. "I can't imagine what they're going through."
"We can lean on our faith," he said. "We want kids to rely on their faith."
How to talk to children about school violence
The most important thing parents need to remember when talking with their children about the school shooting in Connecticut is to keep the talks age-appropriate.
If young children ask, parents should answer in a simple and sensitive way, said Mike Brose, executive director of the Mental Health Association in Tulsa.
Brose said parents are also urged to limit the exposure young children have to the event.
"For the little ones, we're really concerned about limiting their exposure to trauma," he said.
"It's also OK for parents to answer with 'I don't know,' " he said.
Brose also said that while parents are going to be concerned, they need to try to keep the event in perspective and realize that the overall risk to children is relatively low.
"They're going to have anxiety and fear, but when children see us calm they're able to stay calm," he said.
With teenagers, parents can create a discussion about their thoughts and feelings, Brose added.
"Older teens are used to being exposed to lots of traumatic events. These kids have experienced a lot and remember other traumatic events across the country. Parents can talk about their feelings and reassuring them," he said.
- Mike Averill, World staff writer
Original Print Headline: Local schools react to news
Kim Archer 918-581-8315 Sara Plummer 918-581-8465
Victims' family members leave a firehouse staging area after the shooting at the Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Conn., where authorities say a gunman opened fire, leaving 27 people dead, including 20 children, Friday. JESSICA HILL/Associated Press