Locked gates, buddy system among school safety measures

| January 4, 2013 | 0 Comments

SCHOOL SAFETY. Students enter Larchmont Charter School. At right are Dolores Patton, principal, and Sarah Eun, a teacher.

Even before the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary last month, safety was a top concern among area schools, officials said.

“School safety is our number one priority… we are very proactive and reassure the kids they’re safe. That’s the best thing for them,” said Eugene Straub, executive director of Larchmont Charter School’s three campuses.

School psychologists are working with faculty to help answer questions, which often come from the older children, sometimes weeks or months after the tragedy.

In light of the horrific events that took place Dec. 14 in Newtown, Conn., St. Brendan School principal Sister Maureen O’Connor has instructed her faculty to talk to their students about the importance of listening to directions.

She credits the lives saved at Sandy Hook to children doing as they were told by their educators.

Video cameras, classroom doors that lock on the inside and the buddy system are among security measures, as well as a locked and fenced facility which has one entrance at the school at S. Manhattan Pl.

Schools are gated

“It’s the same procedure at almost every school,” said Larchmont Charter’s Straub.

Schools are gated and fenced, only opened in the morning and afternoons for children, faculty and parents.

Visitors are buzzed in at the front door or gates—monitored cameras—sign in at the office and wear large, visible tags. If faculty members see anyone they don’t recognize, they are instructed to guide them to the office.

In addition, said Straub, the school keeps a close relationship with local law enforcement.  Lock downs—securing students and faculty inside classrooms or other safe havens—occur when necessary, such as if there is a helicopter flying overhead or police activity in the area.

There are fire and earthquake drills, and emergency supplies are in each classroom.

“We want everybody to know, the parents, faculty, kids, the schools are safe. Millions of kids go to school. There are these crazy things people do; there’s no explanation.

“Obviously it’s nerve wracking for all of us. Things like this are scary especially without a motive; even with a motive, it makes no sense.

“It’s sad. My heart breaks for these families. It’s tragic,” Straub said.

Police at schools

More than 200 police officers are being deployed daily throughout the Los Angeles Unified School District, superintendent Dr. John Deasy and L.A. School Police Dept. Chief of Police Steven Zipperman, said in a letter released on school web pages Dec. 14 after the shooting.

In addition, the district collaborates with mental health agencies and other law enforcement agencies, and a crisis team is in place if additional support is needed.

LAPD steps up

In light of the massacre, uniformed officers are planned to visit every public elementary and middle schools daily after schools open from winter break, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said.

Charter and private schools that want to be included in the plan for daily, random visits will be, he added.

St. Brendan students write to Sandy Hook

ON A VISIT out east in 2011, Frances Muller and her best friend Anne Phelps, a Sandy Hook student.

Sandy Hook third grader Anne Phelps attended kindergarten and first grade at St. Brendan School before her family moved to Newtown, Conn.

“Out of 35 third graders, 32 remember Anne,” said St. Brendan principal Sister Maureen O’Connor.

Last month the third-grade class made cards for Anne and her brother Luke.

The Phelps were in school Dec. 14 when Adam Lanza opened fire and killed 20 children and six adults before turning the gun on himself.

The Phelps children were “mercifully unharmed” in the massacre, said Sister O’Connor.

A job offer prompted Nick and Laura Phelps to pack up and move with their four children from Park La Brea to Newtown, she added.

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