On Dec. 14, Adam Lanza, a 20-year-old man reportedly with a behaviorial disorder shot his mother four times at their home and then made his way to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Conn., were he killed six adults and 20 students before turning the gun on himself.
According to administration at St. Mary’s, Sleepy Eye Public and St. John’s School, every precaution is being taken to make sure our local schools are the safest possible place our children can be.
Several years ago, with the help of Shari Hittesdorf, the Sleepy Eye Safety Training Coordinator, a crisis management committee was formed. This committee, comprised of Brown County school administrators, local and county law enforcement officials, emergency and bus service personnel, meet on a regular basis to put together plans that address all kinds of situations.
Each time the committee meets, according to Hittesdorf, they discuss potential situations that could occur and how they would handle them. Each situation includes a written plan of action as well as practice drills.
In addition to a crisis management plan, the schools have only one point of entry at each school during normal school hours and follow state guidelines by practicing five fire and lock down drills per year. St. Mary’s administrator Jerry Neubauer said twice a month students at St. Mary’s in grades seven through 12 also participate in anti-bullying sessions.
Each administrator at the three schools in Sleepy Eye want to assure students and parents that school is still a safe place to be, despite the recent violence in Newtown.
All administrators review crisis management plans periodically and take steps to ensure that the state mandated preparedness drills are practiced.
Children of different ages and levels of development will react differently to the tragedy.
As Administrator of St. John’s School, Kevin Draper, pointed out, it’s important to simply listen to the kids and validate their feelings. He also added that it isn’t as important to talk about the details, but to figure out what questions they have in their mind, acknowledge what has happened and focus on where we can go from here.
“We live in a world that has pain and suffering and we tell our students that’s not how God designed the world,” said Draper. “We tell them we know he will guide us through the difficulties until he brings us to the place where there is no pain and suffering.”
Page 2 of 2 -
Mary Gangelhoff, Administrator of St. Mary’s, said they assure the younger students the adults in the school are there to keep them safe and they pray every morning for the people in Newtown, without going into any details.
John Cselovszki, administrator at Sleepy Eye Public School said all first hour teachers touched base with students on Monday morning and listened to what they had to say while assuring students their teachers are going to keep them safe.
Jerry Neubauer, administrator at St. Mary’s school added while this act of violence was unfortunate, it cannot be changed.
“We all have free choices, and sometimes those free choices are not in the best interest of mankind.’