Gov. Nathan Deal signed an order Friday requiring that U.S. and state flags be lowered to half-staff at state buildings and grounds until sunset on Dec. 18.
“Make no mistake, this was an inexcusable, heinous act,” said Carrollton City Schools Superintendent Dr. Kent Edwards. “As a parent and grandparent myself, I would extend our school system’s sincerest condolences with prayers, concerns and sorrows to those families for their loss. It should lead all of us to hold and hug our own children a little tighter today.”
A man opened fire inside the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where his mother worked as a teacher, killing 26 people, including 20 children. The killer, armed with two handguns, committed suicide and another person was found dead at a second scene, bringing the toll to 28.
“This is a very tragic event for all of us in this country,” Edwards said. “Given that it occurred in a elementary school setting, it is not difficult for any of us to identify with this horrific event.”
Edwards and Carroll County Schools Superintendent Scott Cowart said local school officials and law enforcement agencies continually review plans and procedures that involve campus safety.
“A situation such as in Connecticut today gives all of us pause,” said Cowart. “In the education business, safety is the first and most important thing that we are dedicated to do, is to make sure the children that are entrusted to us are safe.
“To see the unnecessary violence is something that makes all of us step back and reflect to make sure that number one, we’re taking all the steps possible to make sure our students are safe, to step back and reflect on what are the processes and procedures that we have to continue to review, how we can continue to ensure safety for our students. To a degree, we have done that already today.”
Edwards said that while no one is totally immune from the kind of incident that occurred in Connecticut, he assured students, parents and teachers that the school system is continually auditing its safety procedures. The school system, he said, repeatedly conducts safety drills to educate staff and students on precautionary protocol designed to address any potential exposure to unpredictable safety risks.
“As recently as October, all of our principals and system administrative staff participated in a week-long safety training exercise at the Federal Emergency Management Agency complex in Maryland,” Edwards said. “This training was designed to develop safety procedures and equip our school system to minimize, if not eliminate, our vulnerability to this type of situation.”
Cowart credits law enforcement — school resource officers are provided to the school system by the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office — and emergency responders for their roles in safety planning. He said the school system has worked with those agencies the past three years to “sharpen” emergency plans and to help train school system personnel on how to respond to threatening situations.
“Our biggest prayer is that we never have to use it, but we understand that we must be prepared if something does happen,” he said. “We work diligently to ensure a safe environment and one of the things we’re blessed with in Carroll County is our partnership with our local law enforcement and emergency response groups. ... We’re never where we want to be but we have worked hard and diligently.”
Edwards said he understands that while such school procedures and precautions can sometimes be inconvenient for parents and visitors, “I would encourage all of us to embrace and reinforce them to maintain the highest level of safety for our students. This type of tragedy has no place in our community and it is inherent upon all of us to keep our schools safe through awareness and diligence.”