Central Bucks school officials reached out to parents Friday in the wake of the horrific school shooting in Connecticut.
By the end of the day Friday, the nation and the world knew that a gunman killed 20 children, many of them kindergartners, and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. The gunman died at the scene, and another victim was found later for a total of 28 dead.
Central Bucks Superintendent Dr. Rodney Green sent a message Friday afternoon through the district's email notification system to parents and school staff.
Green told Doylestown Patch that he wanted to reassure parents that Central Bucks schools take a proactive stance to school safety.
"We take safety issues very seriously," Green said. "We want parents to know that we rehearse and prepare for all kinds of crises. Student safety is our top priority."
Green said a few parents called the district offices throughout the afternoon with concerns about the shooting. More questions may come up next week, he said, and district staff, from principals to counselors to administrators, will be ready to address them.
"This happened on Friday, and now it's the weekend, and I think it will take people a little while to process it all," Green said. "When we come back to school on Monday, people may have more concerns they want to address."
Doylestown-area police, meanwhile, say they practice for crises such as mass shootings both in their own forces and as a wider, regional crisis incident response team.
"We’ve held training sessions using a school to conduct scenarios to better prepare for a critical incident at a school," said Doylestown Borough Lt. Pat Penecale. "Our main goal, of course, is going into the school and stopping the threat as quickly as we can."
Once municipal officers get to the scene and determine that the situation is critical, Penecale said they would call for backup from other neighboring departments.
If warranted, they would also then call for the regional SWAT team, the Bucks County Major Incident Response Team. That team includes specially trained officers from police forces across the Central Bucks area.
Doylestown Township Police Chief Dean Logan said that's exactly how events unfolded this summer, when an armed gunman holed up in his estranged wife's home during a 10-hour standoff.
"Our guys would come in and would contact the Central Bucks special response team, which is what took place over here in Doylestown Lea on Father’s Day," Logan said.
Below is the message Green sent to Central Bucks parents and staff:
"I am sure you have heard about the terrible school shooting which occurred in Connecticut this morning. We are all horrified by this, and those families and staff are in our thoughts and prayers. I have alerted our Principals so that they can be prepared to help you with any concerns you have. Our goal is to remain strong and to reassure our parents and students that this is an isolated case, and we continue to remain vigilant and proactive when it comes to safety. We need to protect our young children from the details on the news and help them feel safe at school.
In the past few years, we have increased our preparation to deal with all kinds of safety issues. We have added a variety of safety drills to our regular monthly fire drills. We have prepared our staff to deal with the unexpected. Safety procedures are reviewed on a regular basis and our administrators, teachers, and other staff and review this throughout the year. We have practice “tabletop” drills with schools and go over different scenarios. We have safety committees in every school and they meet regularly to discuss potential issues. We take these issues very seriously and continue to remain vigilant regarding student safety.
Let’s please keep the families and staff in Connecticut in our thoughts and prayers as they deal with this tragedy. Please know that we in Central Bucks will continue to keep safety and preparedness as a top priority."