It says something particularly depressing about gun violence in America that, on the occasion of yet another mass school shooting, we reflexively turn to the epidemic’s previous most infamous victims for some kind of perspective. And, in fact, the Jeffco Public School District in Colorado, where the Columbine shooting took place 13 years ago, did have something to say on Friday.
From a statement released by the district to local families (thanks to the Washington Post for first reprinting):
Jeffco Public Schools is heartbroken for the families and the community in Connecticut that have lost innocent lives. Their loss is unfathomable and profound – we hold them in our hearts and prayers.
Please be assured that our staff does everything they can to keep your children safe. Safety precautions are a part of every school day and our staff is always vigilant. We will heighten our awareness even more over the next week and will continue to protect your children while they are in our care.
Elsewhere in Colorado, Aurora Public Schools superintendent John L. Barry penned a statement to families, too. Aurora was the site of this summer’s movie theater shooting, which killed 12, many of them local high school students. “Although this is an isolated event that happened far away from Aurora Public Schools,” Barry wrote of Friday’s deaths, “news of this nature—especially in light of the summer tragedy in our city—may be disturbing for students and families.”
The local police department, the letter noted, had assured district officials that there were no known threats against Aurora schools. The letter went on to list off the district’s safety measures in emergency situations: regular lockdown and evacuation drills, strong visitor management policies, security cameras in strategic places, emergency drills with local agencies, email and text parental notification systems. “Please be sure,” the note added, “that your child’s school has current contact information on file.”
Since Friday, school systems all over the country have sent out letters and statements with this terribly awkward mix of condolence of reassurance. Collectively, the notes make for a sad testimonial to the fact that schools everywhere in America must react to a mass shooting anywhere with the assumption that such a thing could happen to them. As classes resumed today, this has turned into a time for both grieving and reviewing lockdown procedures, for educating children but also reminding their parents that in America, a school system's No. 1 priority is "safety."
From the Los Angeles Unified School District:
On a daily basis, the Los Angeles School Police department deploys over 200 police officers throughout the District on campus and safe passages patrol. In addition, we collaborate with public safety and mental health agencies to ensure planning, preparation, response and mitigation to all incidents that may affect student safety.
From St. Louis Public Schools Superintendent Kelvin R. Adams:
The Sandy Hook School shootings are a reminder to all of us to remain vigilant in our efforts to follow the safety procedures in our schools. I have reminded all school staff to keep all exterior doors locked and to require all visitors to enter and exit through the main entrance. All visitors must also sign in at the school office. Staff members have also been reminded to be aware at all times of who is in and around the school building.
Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Mike Miles even held a press conference to deliver his reassurances in person last Friday:
Top image: Mike Segar/Reuters