MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary has many parents thinking about the security measures at their child’s school.
Here in Minnesota, the Department of Education requires districts to have an emergency management policy and perform a series of drills throughout the year.
Schools must carry out five lockdown drills, five fire drills and one tornado drill over the course of the year. That’s just the minimum, and many school districts take security even further.
The routine of bringing the kids to school and picking them up took on a different feel Monday, three days after a gunman killed 20 children at a Connecticut school.
Parent Heidi Melnychuk felt that difference.
“I was actually very scared to bring my kids to school,” Melnychuk said.
Many parents, like Matt Miller, rarely had school security on their mind – but now can think of nothing else throughout the school day.
“It’s on my mind, everything I do. ‘How’s Audrey? How’s my daughter?'” Miller said.
As the man in charge of crisis management for the Minneapolis Public Schools system, Jason Matlock oversees the safety of 34,000 students.
“You always have to have plans and procedures. You always have to be ready for the worst,” Matlock said.
The procedures often start with secure buildings, including locked doors, surveillance and visitor check-in requirements.
Many schools also employ their own security officers. But as the events Sandy Hook showed us, those measures can sometimes fail. That’s where safety drills come in. Students practice lockdown drills repeatedly throughout the year.
“We say, ‘You get inside a classroom, you lock the door, you shut the lights off, you get out of the line of sight of that window or whatever’s at door and you stay as quiet as possible,'” said Matlock.
Some schools go one step further, practicing evacuations and performing the drills more often than required.
“So it’s not as big of shock to the system is one of the other big reasons – so they’ve done it before. And so they can handle it under the pressure,” Matlock said.
They are measures helping to put some parental minds at ease at a time when everyone is thinking safety.
“It’s a scary thing. It can happen anywhere to anyone,” said Miller.
Security procedures also include a communication system between the district and parents. Many schools sent out emails alerting parents of their safety measures.