Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Does your child's school have a security plan?

By John Matthews, Special to CNN
January 15, 2014 -- Updated 0314 GMT (1114 HKT)
A policeman walks in front of Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy after a shooting incident in Decatur, Georgia, on Tuesday, August 20. Michael Brandon Hill, 20, opened fire at the school armed with an AK-47 "and a number of other weapons," police said. There were no reports of injuries. A policeman walks in front of Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy after a shooting incident in Decatur, Georgia, on Tuesday, August 20. Michael Brandon Hill, 20, opened fire at the school armed with an AK-47 "and a number of other weapons," police said. There were no reports of injuries.
HIDE CAPTION
Shots fired at Georgia school
Shots fired at Georgia school
Shots fired at Georgia school
Shots fired at Georgia school
Shots fired at Georgia school
Shots fired at Georgia school
Shots fired at Georgia school
Shots fired at Georgia school
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A gunman armed with an assault rifle attacked an elementary school in Decatur, Georgia
  • John Matthews: Parents need to be proactive about their children's school security plans
  • He says an important question is: Does the school regularly practice safety drills?
  • Matthews: Real-time practice scenarios are essential to a strong school safety plan

Editor's note: John Matthews is the executive director of the Community Safety Institute, a public safety consultancy organization. He is the author of "Mass Shootings: Six Steps for Survival," "School Safety 101" and the co-author of "The Eyeball Killer," an account of his capture of Dallas' only serial killer.

(CNN) -- This commentary was originally published in August, 2013.

Barely more than a week into the new school year and a gunman armed with an assault rifle has attacked an elementary school in Decatur, Georgia. Fortunately, the gunman was apprehended before anyone was injured or killed.

Although the outcome of this most recent attack was significantly better than the carnage witnessed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, last December, parents need to be proactive when it comes to their children's school security plans. Before sending their precious little ones back to school, every parent should ask their school administrators the following questions:

1. Does the school have a crisis response plan customized for its campus?

John Matthews
John Matthews

Over the last decade, many states have mandated that schools have crisis response plans. This sounds like a good idea in theory. But because they were mandated, many schools have simply copied generic plans provided by the state or another school district in order to meet their legal requirements. Make sure that your school has a crisis response plan that has been specifically designed for its unique characteristics, demographics and personnel.

2. Does your campus regularly practice school safety drills?

If your campus does not regularly practice basic school safety drills such as lockdowns, shelter-in-place and evacuations, ask the administrators why not? There is no good reason they can give you for not being prepared. The old adage "practice makes perfect" not only applies to reading, writing and arithmetic. Most school safety experts advise campuses to practice such drills at least once per semester with teachers and school staff also drilling during in-service training days.

3. What should parents do if there is an emergency at the school?

"They were all surrounding him"
Entire Georgia school shooting 911 call
Hear Georgia school shooting 911 call

Your school should be providing you with information regarding your role as a parent during a school crisis. Whom do you call? Where do you go? What do you when you get there? What documents do you need to bring, if any? Many school districts require all parents to show proper identification to pick up their child after a "nontraditional release" such as an evacuation. Make sure you know the school and districts policies for such an incident.

4. Have both staff and students received training on what to do during an active shooter incident?

It is imperative that administrators and teachers know what to do during a school crisis but it is equally as important for students to know what to do to survive an incident. Demand to know exactly what training is provided to staff and students. Does the school provide materials so you can discuss the training with your child and provide additional practice if necessary?

5. Has the school partnered with its local law enforcement agency to practice emergency response procedures?

Although many schools have crisis response plans, most have not taken time to personally work with their local law enforcement agencies to co-develop plans and practice drills. Real-time practice scenarios are essential to a comprehensive school safety plan. When school and law enforcement plans are not in sync with each other, important procedures that could save lives may be missing.

We can never predict when something terrible will happen. But the least that you can do as a parent is to make sure your child's school has taken the necessary measures to act in the safest and best possible way should an unanticipated disaster -- such as a shooting -- occur.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of John Matthews.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1947 GMT (0347 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1650 GMT (0050 HKT)
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1723 GMT (0123 HKT)
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1938 GMT (0338 HKT)
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 04: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell walks the sidelines prior to the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field on September 4, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Martha Pease says the NFL commissioner shouldn't be judge and jury on player wrongdoing.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 2122 GMT (0522 HKT)
It's time for a much needed public reckoning over U.S. use of torture, argues Donald P. Gregg.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1608 GMT (0008 HKT)
Peter Bergen says UK officials know the identity of the man who killed U.S. journalists and a British aid worker.
September 13, 2014 -- Updated 1620 GMT (0020 HKT)
Joe Torre and Esta Soler say much has been achieved since a landmark anti-violence law was passed.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2055 GMT (0455 HKT)
David Wheeler wonders: If Scotland votes to secede, can America take its place and rejoin England?
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2207 GMT (0607 HKT)
Jane Stoever: Society must grapple with a culture in which 1 in 3 teen girls and women suffer partner violence.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2036 GMT (0436 HKT)
World-famous physicist Stephen Hawking recently said the world as we know it could be obliterated instantaneously. Meg Urry says fear not.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2211 GMT (0611 HKT)
Bill Clinton's speech accepting the Democratic nomination for president in 1992 went through 22 drafts. But he always insisted on including a call to service.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2218 GMT (0618 HKT)
Joe Amon asks: What turns a few cases of disease into thousands?
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 1721 GMT (0121 HKT)
Sally Kohn says bombing ISIS will worsen instability in Iraq and strengthen radical ideology in terrorist groups.
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 1730 GMT (0130 HKT)
Analysts weigh in on the president's plans for addressing the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 1327 GMT (2127 HKT)
Artist Prune Nourry's project reinterprets the terracotta warriors in an exhibition about gender preference in China.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
The Apple Watch is on its way. Jeff Yang asks: Are we ready to embrace wearables technology at last?
ADVERTISEMENT