Concordia schools working to ensure safety

Published 12:00am Friday, December 21, 2012

The tragic event that recently occurred in Newton, Conn., has affected millions of Americans over the last week.

It has created fear and anxiety among parents who now question how safe their children are at America’s schools. After all, schools are supposed to be safe havens in our local communities, and the idea that a person would go to an elementary school to conduct such an act of extreme violence is almost beyond most of our abilities to comprehend.

The horrific event has not only created fear and anxiety among parents and grandparents, but also among the teaching profession that is seemingly under attack on a regular basis from a variety of directions; yet, it was the actions of numerous teachers and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School that saved the lives of countless children.

This event was “the 9/11” for many teachers, striking them at their core and causing many of them to ask why and how such an event would be possible.

In Concordia Parish, school principals, members of our central office administrative staff and officers from the Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office, Vidalia Police Department and Ferriday Police Department have met this week to discuss school safety and security concerns.

Additional meetings and future community meetings are planned. There is a desire from every organization to make our schools safer in an effort to protect our children and our school staffs.

Plans are under way to review and evaluate a number of school security procedures at all parish schools. Our school staffs undergo Code Blue training each year, and each school has a crisis plan in place, which is reviewed on a regular basis.

The Concordia Parish School Board in cooperation with our local law enforcement agencies has five police officers who are assigned to schools as security officers or school resource officers.

These five officers work daily throughout the parish’s 11 schools. With support and assistance from our law enforcement partners, additional officers are currently visiting our schools each day in an effort to make our children and school staff feel safe and secure.

Security camera systems are already in place at a number of our schools with plans to install additional systems within the next several weeks. School principals and their staffs will be making a concerted effort to control the flow of visitors to their campuses and will take steps to ensure that they know who is on their campuses and why. Exterior doors will be locked at outlying doorways to limit access to our buildings. Persons who check out students from our schools will have their identity questioned by office staff. These are small steps, but ones that we hope will help keep our children safe.

Although the news of the shootings in Connecticut is terrifying and makes all of us very nervous about sending our children to school each day, parents should rest assured that teachers and principals from the schools in Concordia Parish, deputies from the Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office and police officers from the Vidalia and Ferriday Police Departments are working together to ensure that our schools are as safe as they can possibly be.

Our school employees, like the employees of our local law enforcement agencies, are parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and neighbors themselves, and the last thing that any of us want are unsafe schools.

Please continue to keep the families of Newton, Conn., in your thoughts and prayers as they struggle to deal with these tragic times during this holiday season.

I also ask that you keep in mind that we are very blessed to live in a caring community with many dedicated teachers, principals, school employees and law enforcement officials who are committed to keeping your children safe.

Please pray for them and the safety of our children as you celebrate during this holiday season, and keep in mind that should you hear rumors or see Internet postings about guns at school or see suspicious persons around our schools, it is imperative that you notify your school’s principal or local law enforcement agency as soon as possible.


Paul Nelson is the superintendent of the Concordia Parish Schools.