December 15, 2012

‘Horrible day for all America’

Parents, local school officials react to Connecticut massacre

By Christopher Smith

— Leslie Kinsey said hearing about the school shootings in Newtown, Conn., on Friday made her remember the 2008 bombing of a Dalton law firm and the phone call from a police officer that assured her “my kids were OK.”

“My two sons attended City Park Elementary school near the law office that was bombed,” Kinsey said. “I remember the fear when I received the phone call, then I was told everything was fine ... I cannot imagine the fear these parents felt today. These were babies who were attacked. Five- to 10-years-old with dreams of Santa coming ... and now they’re gone ... what a horrible day for all America.”

Local school officials reminded parents, staff and students to “always be vigilant.”

“It’s so hard to understand these kinds of things,” Pat Holloway, Dalton Public Schools spokeswoman, said. “It’s a tragedy. It brings up so many difficult emotions for all of us, and everyone is on a heightened sense of security. We just remind everyone — students, staff, parents — to watch for anything out of the ordinary.”

City school principals were sent an email Friday afternoon after news broke of the shootings, reminding them to “always maintain their building’s security.”

County school officials enforce the locking of all unused, outside-access doors at schools to limit entry to the front door. The front door is secured with a “locked vestibule (a small entrance that requires consent by school officials before entering),” said Eric Beavers, Whitfield County Schools spokesman.

There are plans in place at county schools if a similar shooting were to happen here, Beavers said.

“We can’t share details (for legal and security reasons),” he said. “But generally, it includes locking down the school, notifying authorities, following instructions provided by law enforcement and helping students and staff remain calm during a terrible and stressful situation.”

“Our hearts are with those families and educators (in Connecticut) as they struggle to understand what happened during this vicious attack,” Beavers said. “Keeping students and staff safe is our top priority.”