Recent events in South Florida are disturbing to those of us who teach and work in schools. On the one hand these events seem far away and removed; on the other, because active shootings so often target schools, they seem close. Some of us come to work every day wondering if it could happen here, and many of you parents, probably wonder the same thing.
With nearly 500 people in the building at any time, however, one thought is never far from my mind – safety. When you drop your children at New Covenant, one of my most important tasks is keeping them secure while they are in our care.
There are two ways to maximize security. First, we can anticipate the things that could happen and prepare for them. This is why we have a comprehensive emergency plan, developed with the Lynchburg Sheriff’s Office. This plan details what to do in more than fifteen scenarios, including that of an active shooter. The plan has been filed with the authorities, and, perhaps more importantly, occupies a prominent place at the front desk. I keep a copy in my desk drawer, immediately to the right of my computer mouse. In response to the unlikely, but terrifying scenario of an armed intruder, I am revisiting that part of our plan and pursuing further faculty/staff training with the police department.
In addition, the Lynchburg Tactical Unit has been given the opportunity to bring its team to the school for training. This unit knows the inside of the buildings, the broader campus, and has run drills in preparation for the unlikely, but worst case emergency that we might experience.
The second way to maximize security is to create a culture of awareness, to help faculty members better recognize behaviors of others in our community, be they students, parents, vendors or other regular visitors to the campus. Most of the active shooter events have this in common – the perpetrator had a previous relationship to someone in the school. In other words, the targets are not completely random. While we have never observed a student, a faculty member, or a parent threaten violence, our preparedness training should include in-service that would help identify possible early-warning signs in individuals, signs that are becoming clearer in the wake of so many tragedies of this type.
There is much more to safety procedures at New Covenant, but you should know that the board of directors, the administration and the entire faculty have given serious attention to minimizing risk and assuring that we can do all that is humanly possible to assure the safety of our children.