AS OUR MAY ISSUE WAS ABOUT TO BE PUBLISHED, WE RECEIVED the horrifying news with the rest of the world about the shooting massacre at Virginia Tech, the deadliest attack by one person in U.S. history. The gunman, Cho Seung-Hui, who had displayed patterns of disturbance that had not been treated, left angry writings, photos and videos that were chillingly parallel to those left by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold before the Columbine High School massacre in Colorado just eight years earlier. The menacing poses and contempt-filled rants of the gunmen blamed bullies and local school cultures for internalized pain that erupted in deadly violence. In the wake of the tragedy at Virginia Tech, schools across the country experienced similar threats that led to lockdowns and evacuations, including ones in Yuba City, Calif.; Ann Arbor, Mich.; St. Augustine, Fla.; and Austin, Texas. But every K12 district is vulnerable in some way to internal and external threats, so it may be time to review and revamp your district safety, security and crisis response plans. Significant help is available through the DA community.
Updating Your School's Security
Contributing editor Kevin Butler interviewed school superintendents in four districts where deadly incidents had occurred, for his "Tragic Lessons" article in the May issue, and he reported the steps each took to improve security in the aftermath. Those measures included surveillance systems, security training programs, lockdown and communications procedures, entrance monitors, electronic hotlines, staff access cards, security resource officers and close relationships with departments of law enforcement. You can access this article and its recommendations at our Web site (www.districtadministration.com) and also add your own comments and questions for others who grapple with the same issues. There are also recommended Web-based resources, such as those listed in Security Update this month. If you have school safety experiences and insights to share, please submit them to our new Letters department.
This fall District Administration will also launch a leadership series of one-day seminars titled "New Paths to School Safety & Security," starting in Massachusetts and New York in October. You can get more information on the Web site and in the announcement in this issue. One of the presenters, Scott Poland, chair of the National Emergency Assistance team for the National Association of School Psychologists, along with Donna Poland, director of the Upper University School at Nova Southeastern University, also prepared a guide in this issue on making "safe school" preparations in your district this summer. In their words, "If you work as a K12 administrator for an extended period of time, it is almost certain that you will experience a tragedy that will impact your staff and students. It's not IF it happens, it's WHEN it happens." We want to be your go-to source for timely information, and so we will also publish articles on related topics such as cell phone policies in the year ahead. Best wishes for a safe and secure year.