Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Does your child's school have a security plan?

By John Matthews, Special to CNN
updated 10:14 PM EST, Tue January 14, 2014
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
updated 12:50 PM EDT, Tue July 29, 2014
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
A crisis like the Gaza conflict or the surge of immigrants can be an opportunity for a lame duck president, writes Julian Zelizer
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Carol Costello says the league's light punishment sent the message that it didn't consider domestic violence a serious offense
updated 8:51 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Danny Cevallos says saggy pants aren't the kind of fashion statement protected by the First Amendment.
updated 2:52 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Margaret Hoover says some GOP legislators support a state's right to allow same-sex marriage and the right of churches, synagogues and mosques not to perform the sacrament
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Priya Satia says today's drones for bombardment and surveillance have their roots in the deadly history of Western aerial control of the Middle East that began in World War One
updated 12:35 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
updated 6:25 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
updated 11:33 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
updated 8:45 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
updated 6:05 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 2:53 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT