By Robert Moreschi
The tragedy that unfolded during the morning of Dec. 14, 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., has given new life to the gun control debate, and has sparked a furious push from some for newer and stricter gun control laws.
Another product of our nation’s newly awakened fears of the growing threat of gun violence in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook tragedy are scores of new safety measures being enforced in schools all over the country. Twenty elementary school children and six staff members died in the shooting.
The tragic events that transpired over the course of a few hours in that quaint Connecticut town sent shockwaves throughout the entire nation, but it also opened the eyes of parents, teachers and school administrators alike, who realized that something like this can happen at any school, at any given time. Many parents and teachers have been asking since that morning if their schools are protected enough.
In the Hamilton Township school district, that question has been answered in the weeks that have followed the Sandy Hook shooting, by putting an extra emphasis on installing additional safety procedures to prevent incidents like this from occurring.
School administrators have rushed to reinforce already existing emergency procedures and also to develop newer ones that address specific points of vulnerability within the schools, points that were exploited by the gunman at Sandy Hook.
“We have reviewed all of our safety procedures with our administrators and our teachers,” said James Parla, superintendent of the Hamilton school district. “We have gone through the entire district to make sure our classroom doors are able to lock and that the teachers have keys.”
Classroom doors that are able to lock from the inside are a safety measure that is often overlooked by many school administrators, but it is one that can save precious lives in the event of a school shooting.
The Hamilton school district safety committee also met individually with each principal in the district to review safety procedures and how to implement them in the event of an emergency.
They didn’t just stop there. They also followed through on their plans to closely monitor exactly who can gain entry to the township’s high schools.
“We did not have buzzers for our three high schools, so we’re in the process of installing that,” Parla said. “There will be a buzzer system to get into the high schools, just like there is for all of the other schools. We’ve also made sure that procedures for buzzing into a building are in place and actually put into our emergency procedures chart. We want to make sure that everyone is cognizant of them and implements them.”
With these new safety measures, Hamilton school administrators aim to reassure students, teachers and parents that they are taking the necessary steps towards preventing incidents like the one at Sandy Hook from occurring in the future.
“Schools are supposed to be a safe haven,” Parla said, “but I think that we have learned over the years that anything can happen at any time and we need to be as prepared as we can be.”