Twinsburg Schools, Police review safety policies following Newtown shooting

by Conner Howard | reporter Published:

TWINSBURG -- Following the shooting in Newtown, Conn., that claimed the lives of 26 elementary school students and staff, school districts throughout the nation are reexamining their security policies, including Twinsburg City Schools.

During the last week of classes for before winter break, Twinsburg police are increasing their presence at all school buildings as a precautionary measure. Superintendent Kathryn Powers said it's important for the community to be aware of the police resources available in emergencies.

"Police officers have provided some low-profile attention to our buildings and will continue to do so this week," Powers said. "Basically, just reassuring our community that they are available for assistance if necessary."

"We've increased our presence in and around the schools," Police Chief Chris Noga added. "We understand that everybody's at a heightened sense of anxiety."

While Powers said a partnership between schools and police is important to calm worried families, a thorough review of what improvements could be made to current policies is the district's main concern.

"We're in the business of frequently practicing our emergency safety drills," Powers said. "Our partnership with city services is excellent. I take what the chief suggests very seriously. We talked about some of the changes we are potentially going to make to our drills and our practices in the new year."

One idea under consideration for adoption by the district is the ALICE program (alert, lock down, inform, counter and evacuate), an assailant-response system created after the 1999 Columbine shooting that trains students and staff to respond to armed threats. Powers said the ALICE program operates on principals coordinating lock down and evacuation efforts, depending on the location of the intruder.

"If the principals were to suggest that there is a crisis somewhere in the building, the students and teachers are locking into an area away from glass and away from doors," Powers said. "We've practiced that, we're good at that, we know how to do those kinds of things. Aurora [city school district] has already instituted ALICE and it's going very well, so we would like to follow suit with that."

In addition to this proposed addition to school security, Powers said she is open to suggestions from her entire staff, including teachers and administrators from all Twinsburg schools.

"They see things through a lens that I don't have," Powers said of her staff. "I have asked them to contemplate what we do in our buildings. We'll take a look at what people suggest. I think we want to be proactive in our approach. God forbid we would ever have a situation like this here in Twinsburg, I feel confident that we are as prepared as we can be, but we also always have an opportunity to revise our plans to be better."

As the district looks to a new year, Powers said the process of reviewing crisis plans is never ending, but also important is ensuring the incident at Sandy Hook Elementary does not disrupt the educational process.

"Some kids have not been made aware of what happened, depending on how old they are," Powers said. "The message to my staff was 'Let's try to bring as much normalcy to the district as we can, making sure that we're aware that there is a situation that people are very anxious about and just provide some input to our building administrators so that we can make some good decisions moving forward.'"

Noga stated in a press release to the community Dec 17 that the Twinsburg schools and police are in full cooperation to learn whatever lessons are possible from the Newtown shooting to better serve and protect students and staff.

"The partnership between the Twinsburg Police Department and the Twinsburg City School District is strong," Noga said. "We have worked together for years to ensure our children have the safest possible school environment and we will continue to do so. While I do not know what, if any, changes to school safety philosophy will emerge as a result of the Sandy Hook Elementary incident, I am committed to ensuring that the Twinsburg Police Department does all that we can to keep our kids safe."

Email: choward@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9423

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