In this file photo, Springfield police surround Glenwood Elementary School, which was on lockdown while searching for a male suspect. No one was hurt. Governor Deval Patrick released recommendations from a safe and secure schools task force on Thursday.
(The Republican archive photo by / Michael S. Gordon)
SPRINGFIELD – While school district officials have yet to review the 29 recommendations set out in the Governor’s Task Force on Safe and Secure Schools report, they have protocols in place to protect children from harm, a spokesperson for the school department said on Friday.
Azell Cavaan, communications director for Springfield Public Schools, said district officials had not had a chance to review the report, but said schools were equipped with cameras, door alarms and other security equipment and personnel.
Cavaan said access to schools is tightly controlled and schools practice lockdown strategies as well as intrusion drills. “These exercises help staff and students know what to do in an emergency,” she said.
The city of Springfield has allocated more than $ 1 million for security maintenance and other improvements in recent years, she added.
The 30-page task force report, released by Gov. Deval L. Patrick on Thursday, recommends that Massachusetts schools develop and follow emergency response plans, ensure classroom doors lock from the inside, practice what would happen if a shooter appeared and had a “go-kit” to use in an emergency.
Patrick convened the School Safety and Security Task Force in January, in response to a spate of school shootings, including the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, which has killed 20 students and six staff.
Patrick also announced a $ 200,000 grant program to fund school safety improvements.
The task force stressed that the security measures are only recommendations and not mandates.
“The report is meant to be a model framework for community leaders, first responders and school district staff,” the report says. “It should be noted that these recommendations are intended to set the stage for what is possible and to spark conversation and collaboration.”
The recommendations have been divided into three headings: state level, district level and building level.
State-level recommendations included: funding to establish a state-level school safety technical assistance team to provide assistance to school districts at their request; funding for first responder training to prevent and respond to threats; and funding to renovate buildings with security devices such as metal doors and classroom door locks.
Recommendations at the district level include consideration of an additional line in school district budgets only on issues related to school safety and security, protocols to address social, emotional and behavioral health needs all students and the development of an anonymous threat reporting mechanism allowing residents (and especially marketed to students) to report threats of violence at school.
Recommendations at the building level include the development of a school crisis intervention team made up of the school principal, teachers, school resources manager, nurse, professional the behavioral health of the school and maintenance staff; the use of a single main entrance for all members of the public to enter a school building; and immediate accessibility of a “go-kit” including such items as a flip chart of school emergency procedures and contact information, a building map, medical supplies and a journal presence / missing person.
Glenn Koocher, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees Executives, told the State House News Service he doesn’t know how many districts in the state have a detailed emergency plan. “The only thing they don’t want is a big mandate that’s going to be costly.”