Although shooting rampages are rare, it’s only natural to ask: What if it happened here?
“The shooting incident at an elementary school in Connecticut today is a senseless and horrific tragedy that will rightfully raise concerns in communities around the world about school safety," said a message that went out to parents from the Newport-Mesa Unified School District. "This is a confusing situation that affects us all in different ways. Parents are encouraged to contact their child’s principal with any questions or concerns."
That situation in Newtown, Conn., is still fluid as new details emerge, some unconfirmed. But .
As the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, it horrified the nation and left parents questioning how they can protect their children.
Schools are perceived as safe places for kids, although few have security measures in place against the kind of violence that happened at Sandy Hook School.
Procedures at the Connecticut School
The school's doors are locked at 9:30 a.m., and visitors are required to sign in, according to the Sandy Hook School website. When violence erupted Friday morning, the school went on lockdown, according to media reports. That means teachers and staff locked students inside classrooms rather than risk evacuation.
Stories of heroic teachers and school staffers at the school have emerged. One teacher locked all her students in a closet to protect them, the Huffington Post reported.
Parents were notified by a reverse 911 call that went out to all Newtown public school families, NBC reported.
Did It Almost Happen Here?
Newtown may be far away, but Irvine is not. A UC Irvine professor was arrested in late July before carrying out what authorities say was a plot to shoot, in his own words, 200 students at an Irvine high school. Some might say we got lucky that time.
So, what are our local school districts and law enforcement doing locally?
“Our schools are safe places,” Laguna Beach Unified School District Superintendent Sherine Smith said in an email to parents Friday. “Our school staff works with parents, local police and fire departments, emergency responders and hospitals to keep your children safe,” she wrote, adding that parents can help in the efforts, too. Be observant and let the principal know if you see or hear something that makes you feel uncomfortable, nervous, or frightened."
Los Alamitos Unified School District – which serves Los Alamitos, Seal Beach and Rossmoor – is passionate about protecting students and preventing future violence, so much that they've created a school Violence Prevention and Response Task Force earlier this year, said Superintendent Sherri Kropp.
"We are prepared," Kropp said."You have to stay vigilant."
Kropp added that, even before the shooting, the district's school board was considering adding more security cameras to local schools.
Newport-Mesa wanted parents to know there that "we are forever dedicated towards the safety of our children and staff," officials said in a statement, adding that today is an opportunity to reflect and shore up our campus visitor practices and protocols.
"All school sites have emergency plans in place and they are practiced," according to the statement. "In the event of a Newport-Mesa emergency, we would exercise our capacity to immediately notify all families via our phone all call system, Schoolloop webmail, websites and social media."
At Capo Unified and Beyond
Capistrano Unified, the largest school district in OC Patch territory, serving South Orange County, released a small statement Friday afternoon:
A natural response to school tragedies is an increased concern for the safety of one’s own family. You should know that the Capistrano Unified School District works collaboratively with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, and other agencies, to protect our students, staff, and school communities.
At Saddleback Valley Unified, which serves Mission Viejo, Rancho Santa Margarita, Lake Forest and Laguna Hills, officials were trying to help parents and students process what happened.
“Our principals and staff are working with students and families as we all work to process this tragedy,” said Tammy Blakely, assistant to the superintendent.
The district does have an emergency plan in place in case the unthinkable happens.
“We work together in SVUSD to have emergency plans for the district and for our schools,” she said. “Our priority is the safety of our students. We will continue to implement and refine safety procedures, and we will do everything we can to maintain the safety and security of our schools.”
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, according to City News Service, the Los Angeles Police Department is beefing up patrols around schools, just to be on the safe side.
See more coverage on Newtown Patch:
- Patch Exclusive: 'It Wasn't Me' Man Named as Shooter Writes
- Report: Gunman's Mother Was Target and School's Kindergarten Teacher
- Reaction: Sandy Hook School Shooting
- Police Raid Sandy Hook Home Hours After Shooting