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TMCNet:  Catawba Co. school districts have plans in place for intruders at schools

[December 17, 2012]

Catawba Co. school districts have plans in place for intruders at schools

HICKORY, Dec 15, 2012 (Hickory Daily Record - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- The updates filtering out of Newtown, Conn., about the shootings at an elementary school are every parent or guardian's worst fear. Locally, parents are undoubtedly wondering about the safety of the elementary school their children attend.


While different in approach, each of the three Catawba County school districts has measures in place to react to an intruder, and at least one district has a policy about school access.

"We have only one way in to all of our elementary schools," said Angela K. Simmons, Director of Student Services for Hickory Public Schools. "All of the exterior doors require a key access." Each of the three districts has a lockdown procedure, which is launched by a code known to each teacher and administrator. When that code is given, teachers know to close and lock doors, shut window blinds, and move students to safe areas of a room where they cannot be seen easily through doors or windows.

Catawba County Schools has developed its lockdown plan in conjunction with the Catawba County Sheriff's Office, and teachers and staff are trained in how to respond, according to Steve Demiter, Assistant Superintendent of Operations.

"We do not practice our lockdown procedure with our children," said Demiter. "If the perpetrator is a student, they will know what we do, and could take advantage of that knowledge." "One way we can prevent something like this happening is to have the process known only by the people responsible for activating the plan," he said.

The other two districts do rehearse.

"We practice every quarter," said Simmons. "There is a crisis slip chart in each room with a step-by-step process for the teacher to follow in the event of any code emergency." "Our crisis plans were reviewed in July by city and county fire departments," said Robin Rudisill, Director of Facilities and Safety for Newton-Conover City Schools. Input into the plans came from resource officers, Catawba County fire and safety organizations, as well as the Safety Committee, comprised of school principals and central office staff.

All three districts designate four to five staff members from each school to be a part of the Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT), who are trained during the summer by the Catawba County Health Department, according to Rudisill.

How to deal with situation as a parent "There is no 100 percent guarantee that something like Connecticut cannot or will not happen here," said Ann Peele, Executive Director of the Family Guidance Center in Hickory. "We live in a safe community, but we know there are bad people everywhere." So, how can a parent feel more secure about the school his or her child is going to "Find out what you can," said Peele. "Is a police officer assigned to the school Is there an alarm system Ask yourself, am I aware " Some of that awareness may not be about the specifics, as with the Catawba schools' plans, but in knowing that the district has a plan they are confident about. Reassure your children that the school and the district has put measures in place to help make sure something like Connecticut does not happen here, said Peele.

What about children How do you talk to your kids about what happened in Connecticut Depending on the age of the child, you might wait until the subject comes up, according to Peele. At that point, allow them to express themselves. Ask them if they have concerns, said Peele.

For the very young, there may not be an awareness of the event. If you have children of different ages, do not have a family meeting to address the shootings, said Peele. Deal with each child one on one.

As important, you don't need to have a knee-jerk reaction, she said. Be as calm as possible. Be a source of comfort. If you don't know an answer, tell your child you will try to find out. Then, try to find out and get back to them, Peele said.

Above all, keep things calm and low-key, according to Peele.

The Family Guidance Center provides individual and family counseling with a focus on working with children. It provides services to families dealing with domestic violence. The Center provides shelter for abused women and children; also credit counseling and assistance with housing.

For more information: Questions on dealing with children's emotional trauma, visit the Guidance Center's website at www.fgcservices.com [http://www.fgcservices.com/] .

___ (c)2012 Hickory Daily Record (Hickory, N.C.) Visit the Hickory Daily Record (Hickory, N.C.) at www.hickoryrecord.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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