School safety at forefront in days following Sandy Hook shootings
Parents across the country are saying prayers for the loved ones of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut, where 20 children and six adults were allegedly murdered by Adam Lanza.
Despite the loss of innocent life, local parents may have reason to give thanks.
"In the wake of the tragedy, I was reminded how thankful I am for my family and for the school my children attend," Josh Beavers said.
Beavers' daughter attends first grade at Harper Elementary School.
"I think we often take teachers and school personnel for granted. Seeing the sacrifice and compassion in Newtown, reminded me of Minden," said Beavers, who feels both cities are clean, have low crime and great schools.
"Both are caring communities that attract people to live, raise families and retire," he said. "I couldn't help but think of my daughter's school and how thankful I am for the environment the teachers and administrators create."
December 4, 10 days before the shooting at Sandy Hook, an emergency drill was performed at Harper Elementary.
"My daughter came home and told me, 'We did a bad guy drill today at school,'" Beavers said. "She explained to me that bad guys sometimes do bad things and she and her classmates know what to do if something bad ever happened at school.
"As she told me this, she wasn't upset. She was assured," he continued. "As a parent, raising children in today's crazy world, I can't explain what it means to me to send my child to a school that creates an environment where she feels safe and confident."
Emergency drills, called lock-downs at Harper Elementary, are part of a safety plan each school in Webster Parish is required to have, according to the Webster Parish Policy and Procedure manual.
"A letter was sent home, telling us about the drills and at the beginning of the year, there was some paperwork that explained fire and tornado drills," Beavers recalled. "I read both without a second thought ... I'm thinking about them now, and I'm thankful for the foresight our local schools have."
Webster Parish School Superintendent Steve Dozier said they are always working to strengthen emergency procedures.
"We have all been on heightened alert since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut," Dozier said. "We plan to meet with law officials and get their ideas on how to better protect our students in our schools.
Dozier noted planning for every eventuality presents challenges.
"These situations are something you wish would never occur," he said. "We wish there was one solution that would work for all, but it is not always that simple. "These types of tragedies seem to be occurring more and more frequently across America," Dozier continued. "Despite a very good security system in Connecticut, the system was breached and many lives were lost."
In an effort to inform community members and parents, Webster Parish School's website has been update with information parents and community members may find helpful. Visit www.websterpsb.org, and look for "School Safety" in the 'News' section for their information.
(Editor's note: Josh Beavers is publisher of the Minden Press-Herald.)