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School districts step up security in wake of shooting

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- In the wake of the Connecticut school shooting, there is growing concern among parents, students and teachers alike: Are our schools safe?

It's a rare occasion that a homicidal gunman would invade a school, but should that ever happen; all schools do have safety plans in place.

And now surprisingly, school districts all over the country are rethinking their security measures and whether they're tough enough.

"We're taking this seriously obviously. We're reviewing what we have in place, what we need to improve upon and that we would be locking our doors so that we can monitor those people who have legitimate purpose in the schools," says assistant superintendent of Eau Claire Area School District Tim Leibham.

In Eau Claire and all over the country, school districts want to alleviate anxiety by making some changes.

"We have committed staff and we have procedures in place to prevent situations like this from developing," says Leibham.

Among the safety policy changes most parents, students and staff will notice, locking the main doors at all times.

"I spent time over the weekend, communicated to principals and buildings and grounds people to see what we had in place, make sure our automatic door locks are in place and working as we expect," says Leibham.

Over at Memorial High School, much of the parking lot is located in the back of the building. We're told by Officer Kyle Jentzsch those doors will be locked during school hours and be monitored in the morning as students walk into the building.

Kids in Bruncwick County, North Carolina stepped off the bus on Monday to be greeted by a police presence that was often more about assuring parents than comforting the children.

In Fairfax, Virginia, the extra security was not for a specific threat but just to alleviate anxiety as well.

Back in Eau Claire, the intruder alert drill is done at least once a year at every school.

"Students are instructed to go into any classroom and enter the classroom. The teacher will lock the door and have the students huddled or sitting on the floor so they are out of the way of windows," says Leibham.

It's a procedure many of the students at Sandy Hook Elementary did on Friday, hiding in closets, on the floor and in corners.

Plus there's the extra security of cameras and liaison officers at every school to assure parents and students of their safety.

"They are shared between middle schools and fulltime in high schools and the police department allows two street officers to have access to elementary schools as needed," says Leibham.

Some schools started their Monday with a moment of silence, in remembrance of the lives lost on Connecticut.

"With everybody in the country, just really a horrific event. And our thoughts and sympathy and prayers go out to the families and the school and the community. Just a terrible event," says Leibham.

He says the goal now is to learn from what happened and improve safety at the school and also to get back on track and fall back into routine in class.

We’ve taken very reasonable and appropriate actions in response to the tragedy in Newtown that we do that on a regular basis. The big thing is our schools are safe," says Leibham.

The ECASD school board plans to meet Monday evening. Among the topics on the agenda, Policy 832 - Weapons on School Premises, an item that was on the agenda before Friday's tragedy.

We're told Superintendent Mary Ann Hardebeck will likely discuss what happened in Connecticut Friday and the changes that will happen for the Eau Claire Area School District.


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