‘Your heart goes out to the victims’
“Your heart goes out to the victims. You can’t imagine why things like this happen,” said Highland Schools Superintendent Chris Armstrong.
Armstrong was referring to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on Friday, which took the lives of 28 people.
“Unfortunately, things happen in this world that are senseless,” he said. “There was no connection between this boy and the school other than that he was in elementary school there. There was no reason he chose what he did.”
Armstrong said that, despite the tragedy, schools remain the safest place for children.
“We have good preparation and we have good law enforcement in the area, too,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong said the school locks all the doors but one while school is in session. In the event of a “hard” lockdown, all of the doors in the building are locked. Teachers remain in their rooms with the students and follow the protocol specified for hard lockdowns.
Schools in the Highland district have cameras outside. Armstrong said those cameras have been useful in helping the school solve cases in the past.
Arm-strong said all schools are careful about what information they will share about their school’s lockdown procedures. His schools have practiced lockdown drills with teachers.
“What’s tricky is that some of this stuff (school shootings) has been perpetrated by students, so how much do you want the students to know?” he asked.
Armstrong said that what the students are taught is to listen to the teachers’ instructions during a lockdown.
Mark Schneider, superintendent of Mid-Prairie and Keota schools, said his schools receive training at a University of Iowa Public Safety Department event known as ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate). He said a Mid-Prairie high school teacher attended this event after the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007. He said this staff member has been helpful in tweaking the school’s crisis response plan.
He said that at Mid-Prairie and Keota, just as with most schools, only the main door is unlocked during the school day while every other door is locked. He said that county deputies practice SWAT drills in his buildings, and that on a few occasions his faculty have been involved in those drills.
“As an administrator, the No. 1 priority is keeping the students safe,” he said. “You are always worried about all aspects of school safety and since Columbine, even a school shooting. I’m sure the people of Sandy Hook thought it would never happen there, but in reality, it could happen anywhere.”
Schneider said that some tragedies are just so rare they can never practically be prevented.
“You do the best you can to keep people safe but in the end it is in God’s hands. Outside of 8-foot fences, razor wire, and armed guards around every school, no one can guarantee that it won’t happen.”
Schneider said he was deeply saddened by the events, especially because of his work in the school and his constant contact with children and young people.
“My thoughts and prayers are with the Sandy Hook community. I am sure politicians at all levels will have all the answers, but unfortunately, they will probably play politics with the solutions. I know it sounds corny, but the solution really starts inside each one of us. We reap what we sow.”