by Scott Neuffer

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December 14, 2012
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School district responds to Connecticut shooting

Security was heightened at all Douglas County schools on Friday following a horrific shooting in Connecticut that morning.

"We've just asked employees to have a heightened level of awareness," Superintendent Lisa Noonan said Friday afternoon. "Certainly our hearts go out to everyone in that community, and our prayers go out to those families who have been most tragically touched by this."

Early Friday morning, a 20-year-old gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and killed 27 people, including 20 small children, his mother and himself.

Noonan said it's daunting for any parent to discuss such a tragedy with their children.

"The younger the child, the more careful I would want to be in how we discuss it," she said. "I would be more protective of their feelings. We don't want them to be too frightened or paralyzed. Even though today there's this terrible tragedy, statistically, school is still considered one of the safest places."

She urged all parents and community members to stay on the lookout.

"We need the whole community to keep eyes out for any kind of threat or person who may be troubled," she said. "Doing this together is the safest way to protect our children."

In the aftermath of the shooting Friday, Noonan said the Douglas County Sheriff's Office stayed in contact with the district.

"They assured us they were in a heightened state of alert - part of the whole community taking care of each other," she said. "Dept. (John) Meyer is a our school resources officer, and he's a sworn sheriff's deputy. DCSO supports us, so we don't pay for all of it. He's housed inside Douglas High School, but he serves all our schools."

Noonan said the district has several protocols with which staff members train for emergency situations.

"We have a safety team that meets several times a year to update our procedure manuals," she said. "It can't just be the principal who knows what to do. The whole staff has to be ready in case the principal in the front office is injured and not able to carry out the protocol."

To increase security during a lockdown, the district has been rekeying classrooms so that teachers can lock their doors from the inside.

"The project should be finished for all schools by early January," Noonan said.

She said district counselors are always available to assist parents with any concerns.

"Parents are the first place a child goes for reassurance and comfort," she said. "We want parents to have discussions with their children at what ever level they're comfortable with, and to know that we're here to support them if they need us."

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The Record Courier Updated Dec 17, 2012 10:54AM Published Dec 14, 2012 05:57PM Copyright 2012 The Record Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.