School superintendents in Bishop and Mammoth and the Mammoth Police Chief quickly responded to the terrible shootings of young children in the Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut. They offer reassurances on diligent security measures and on vigilance for troubled youth in our towns.
On Saturday, Mammoth School Superintendent Rich Boccia and Police Chief Dan Watson issued a joint news release asking, as we all have, what pushed the individual to the edge to “take such violent action on innocent people.”
Bishop School Superintendent Barry Simpson wrote a letter that will go out to all parents. He says how impossible it is to express the sadness and explain how it could have happened. Simpson said, “Our best hope is to use this horrific event as a strong reminder that our mission as educators begins and ends with student safety.” Simpson said he and the staff are committed to the “development, review, and practice of our emergency response procedures and protocols.”
For Bishop schools, Simpson says staff re-worked and updated the School Emergency Response Plans in the past year and carried out a very detailed emergency drill in October at each school site. He said the recent tragedy has reminded about “our lockdown procedures and additional emergency drills that will be planned and carried out in the coming months.”
In Mammoth Lakes, Superintendent Boccia and Chief Watson said the events at Sandy Hook “tells us that we all must remain vigilant for the signs of any troubled youth that live in our community. Boccia says teachers, administrators and school staff pride themselves on building strong working relationships with our students. They said when there are signs of distress in a student’s life, “we have a number of steps that we can take to provide additional support to that student and their family.”
Superintendent Simpson said Bishop Schools have procedures to deal with trouble kids. He said threat assessments are done and passed on to mental health and law enforcement. They also talk to parents. Simpson said there is a Student-Study Team of parents, teachers, administrators and counselors that address obvious problems and may refer to mental health.
Simpson also revealed that on January 15th a meeting will take place that includes law enforcement, school personnel, fire and mental health to discuss countywide emergency response procedures and preparedness. Simpson said, “We know that any effort to do harm to our schools and communities can be reduced by the decisive actions of alert and prepared individuals.”
In Mammoth Lakes, officials said principals, police and mental health services “will continue to discuss the events that occurred and be prepared to offer counseling services to our students and their families. Mammoth law enforcement and schools will also revisit their school security and response plans. Following are both letters from Mammoth and Bishop officials:
Office of the Superintendent
Bishop Unified School District
Barry D. Simpson, Superintendent
301 N. Fowler Street
Bishop, California 93514
December 17, 2012
It is impossible to express how devastated and broken hearted we all feel about the tragedy that occurred in the Newtown Public School District and Sandy Hook Elementary School. Whenever any school experiences violence and the lives of children and adults are lost, we struggle to find words to express our emotions and explain how this could have happened.
Quite simply, there is no adequate way to explain what happened. Our best hope is to use this horrific event as a strong reminder that our mission as educators begins and ends with student safety. To that end, I would like to assure our parents and community members that we as a faculty and administrative staff, as always, are committed to the development, review, and practice of our emergency response procedures and protocols.
This past year our School Emergency Response Plans were re-worked and updated. In addition, we created a very detailed emergency drill that took place in October at each school site. These drills have included evacuation, earthquake, fire and lockdown procedures among other possible events. In light of this most recent tragedy our staffs will be reminded this week about our lockdown procedures and additional emergency drills will be planned and carried out in the coming months.
Furthermore, a multiple agency meeting will take place on January 15, 2013 that will include law enforcement, school personnel, fire and mental health to discuss countywide emergency response procedures and preparedness. The goal will be to share the best practices for effective planning and preparedness. We know that any effort to do harm to our schools and communities can be reduced by the decisive actions of alert and prepared individuals.
Our hearts are heavy as we think of the innocent lives that have been lost, and I know that all of us will continue to keep those lost in our thoughts and prayers. Like you, I will be holding my children very close this Holiday Season.
Barry D. Simpson
JOINT NEWS RELEASE
MAMMOTH UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT AND MAMMOTH LAKES POLICE DEPARTMENT
December 15, 2012
Like all of you, we are shocked and saddened by the horrific school shootings that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday and the tragic loss of life. One cannot begin to wonder what goes through a person’s mind that pushes them to the edge to take such violent action on innocent people and in this case, teachers and kindergarten students. We share in the grief that all our community has for the victims, their families, and the people of Newtown.
This gives us pause and time to reflect on our need to review our own school safety practices. Mammoth is a small close knit community with open campuses in which we could never fathom an incident similar to this occurring in our own small town. And yet, the same could be said about Newtown, CT before Friday. Preliminary reports indicate that the school had sophisticated security and the coordinated response from the first responders was rapid.
This tells us that we all must remain vigilant for the signs of any troubled youth that live in our community. Our teachers, administrators and school staff pride themselves on building strong working relationships with our students. We know all of our students by name. When there are signs of distress in a student’s life we have a number of steps that we can take to provide additional support to that student and their family.
The officers of the Mammoth Lakes Police Department also know many of the students and their families. They are a resource, not only for the schools, but also for families dealing with troubled youth or simply problems associated with raising children in these times.
Over this weekend the principals, local law enforcement and mental health services will continue to discuss the events that occurred this past Friday and be prepared to offer counseling services to our students and their families as we return to school on Monday morning. Law enforcement and the schools will be revisiting their school security and response plans in the coming days.
The Mono County Mental Health team is available to provide support for students and families and can be reached at 760-924-1740.
Let’s keep the families of the lost children and the teachers in our thoughts and prayers during the holiday season.
Superintendent of Schools
Mammoth Unified School District
Mammoth Lakes Police Department