December 15, 2012

Region reviews security after school massacre

Officials say public schools have policies in place in the event of a security breach.

The Associated Press

AUGUSTA - As educators across the country review security measures in the wake of the Connecticut school massacre, northern New England officials say their public schools have policies in place in the event of a security breach.

In Maine, state police say troopers are trained for scenarios involving a shooter like 20-year-old Adam Lanza.

Maine State Police spokesman Steve McCausland said most schools require visitors to check in at the front desk, have lockdown protocols and trained staff to react to suspicious or threatening behavior.

McCausland said 60 new police officers who graduated from the Maine Criminal Justice Academy in Vassalboro on Friday were trained for active-shooter scenarios and will serve on state, county and municipal police agencies.

"There's a great deal that has been learned in the last decade in the aftermath of the tragedies around the country. Maine school systems have learned that and Maine law enforcement has as well," he said, referring to a 2008 hostage incident involving fourth- and fifth-graders in Stockton Springs.

New Hampshire schools have been required since 2007 to have emergency response plans. State Homeland Security Director Chris Pope said the agency has held 91 training exercises with schools in the state during the past year, including preschools.

In Vermont, Gov. Peter Shumlin said parents and students should know that nearly all the state's schools have emergency plans and security in place. Still, Education Commissioner Armando Vilaseca encouraged schools to review their safety plans to ensure they are up to date.

For Vermont residents, the Connecticut killings bring back painful memories. In 2006, a gunman distraught over the end of a romantic relationship with a teacher shot four people, two fatally, during a rampage through Essex, including a local elementary school. Christopher Williams is serving three life sentences.

In Maine, the Center for Grieving Children is urging parents and other adults to talk with children about what happened. Social workers will be available Monday for Portland public school students who need their support.


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