Superintendent responds to school shooting

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

In the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, Cassville R-4 School District officials have spent the last few days reviewing security plans and procedures.

"We have met with our local resource officer (Jennifer Luckey) and Chief Dana Kammerlohr," said Superintendent Richard Asbill. "There have been a few procedure changes, and we will be working on others as we evaluate what has been done or could be done differently."

In an effort to reassure R-4 District families that the school is safe, Asbill mailed home a letter to parents outlining the district's security measures.

"I am truly saddened by the tragic events that occurred in Connecticut last week," Asbill wrote in the letter. "All of us hurt and grieve for the victims, and we pray that they find comfort in our thoughts for each of them."

Asbill offered parents the following information regarding emergency situations.

* A school calling system is used to call, text and email information to parents. Each family should ensure they have submitted updated contact numbers and addresses to their child's building office.

* Parents are reminded that in the case of an emergency, 2,000 people will likely be calling the school at the same time and not all callers will get through to school officials. Parents must trust that the district has specific procedures in place to ensure student safety.

* In the case of an emergency, buildings will go into lockdown, which means parents will have limited, if any, access to buildings. Lockdown procedures are designed to give response agencies an opportunity to ensure student safety. Parents are encouraged to delay coming to the school until instructed to do so and understand that buildings will be secure until authorities authorize access.

* The district asks parents to talk with their children and emphasize how important it is for students to follow the instructions of teachers and school officials during an emergency.

* Parents should remain calm, focused and remember procedures in an emergency situation. Being informed about emergency procedures will allow parents to know where their children will be and helps ensure all students are secure and safe.

* Families are also encouraged to carefully read information released by the school district.

"Cassville R-4 School District is dedicated to all our children," Asbill wrote in the letter. "We love them and care for them each and every day. We are extremely grateful for the trust you extend to us each day when your child gets on a bus or enters our door.

"Christmas has always been a time of celebration for so many," continued Asbill. "We celebrate the birth of Jesus and celebrate the joys of the past year and the hopes for the new year to come. However, this year, I ask that you share in the effort to be thankful for friends and family that we are truly blessed to have."

Asbill said that Cassville R-4 faculty members have responded to the school shooting both emotionally and objectively.

"They understand this has a huge impact on the educational community in that those teachers were trying to protect children and lost their lives," said Asbill. "They understand that this has an impact on all districts across the country."

Middle school and high school students have had more questions regarding the shooting than students in younger grades, said Asbill.

"Overall, our students are appreciative of what we have," said Asbill. "They understand there was a tragic loss, and they are very compassionate about what has occurred. Adults and children alike right now are just trying to understand why."

As the district completes its first semester, administrators will continue to review emergency procedures and plans.

"There may be some things we intend to do differently next semester," said Asbill. "Each building will communicate with parents by letter or school outreach call as we implement other changes."

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