December 14th marked one-year since the unspeakable tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. I do not know any parent or school employee who does not feel a sick helplessness about the young lives claimed on that day. Inestimable are the lifelong impacts upon surviving family members, friends, and colleagues in the wake of nearly 30 lives cut short in just a few minutes.
Ripple effects from that tragedy are far from over, and they have reached Indiana—and Zionsville. You may recall that our front door lockdowns during all school hours started in December of 2012. You may have heard about our heightened partnership with the Town to increase the already fine attention paid to our schools by ZPD. Thanks to the good work of ZCS’ Jim Uland and his collaborators we were awarded the first year of a safety grant from the State of Indiana (the state grant program was an Indiana legislative response to Sandy Hook, too).
School safety has not been taken lightly in most schools since Columbine or Paducah, but Sandy Hook pushed the needle in many important ways around the nation regarding school security personnel, prudent front door practices, emergency preparedness training for staff and students, and more.
During the second semester of this school year, ZCS will continue with staff training and ramp up student training on the ALICE emergency protocol. During the December Board of Trustees meeting, ZCS safety lead Jim Uland reiterated the specifics of the ALICE acronym (noted below) and previewed our planned rollout of procedures, meetings, and trainings to occur in 2014.
ALICE is recommended by all Boone County law enforcement leaders, endorsed by Homeland Security, trained into our school safety leaders in each of the buildings, and adopted by our Board of School Trustees.
ABOUT A.L.I.C.E. Very briefly stated, this is a safety philosophy and action plan that seeks to give all school employees information during an intruder situation so that individual supervisors of students can decide on the best approach to save lives: sheltering in place, fleeing when safe to do so, and as a last resort, distracting or otherwise deterring the intruder in effort to save lives. The acronym stands for:
In early 2014 we will host meetings for parents who wish to learn more about the ALICE safety plan, the philosophy, the practice, training, and other specifics. We will have our law enforcement partners with us and offer a Q and A period.
Surveillance equipment (some seen and some not seen), police partnerships and presence, entry management, and training/practice—these are some of the ways that we pay close attention to keeping students, staff, and visitors to our schools as safe as we possibly can.
Speaking of safety, I know that many ZCS families and employees travel during the Christmas-New Year’s timeframe. I wish you the best of whatever your plans entail—including safe passage to and from your destination, even if you’re just moving around our local winter wonderland.
All the best.
Superintendent of Schools