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‘What If?’ Asked in Many Schools

December 17, 2012
The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

MIAMI (AP) - Schools around the country are reviewing security plans, adding extra law enforcement patrols and readying counselors for the first day of classes since a shooting massacre at an elementary school in Connecticut.

Districts from Alabama to Arizona and Florida to New England were asking local law enforcement to increase patrols today. School officials in some areas sent messages to parents addressing security or stressing that they have safety plans that are regularly tested. While some officials refuse to discuss plans in detail, it was clear that vigilance will be high this week at schools around the country.

Additional police patrols are planned this week in northern Virginia around the Fairfax County Public Schools, which is the largest school system in the Washington area with 181,000 students. Counselors will also be available at all schools.

"This is not in response to any specific threat but rather a police initiative to enhance safety and security around the schools and to help alleviate the understandably high levels of anxiety," Superintendent Jack Dale said Sunday.

Those sentiments were echoed to the South in Florida's Hillsborough Co., where Sheriff's office spokesman Larry McKinnon said unmarked and marked cars will patrol the schools along with deputies in plain clothes. He wouldn't say how many extra officers will be involved.

The additional patrols will supplement deputies already assigned to every high school and junior high school in the area to ease the fears of parents "who may feel uneasy about sending their children to school." The county's public school system in the Tampa area includes around 195,000 students.

Aside from their students' physical safety, administrators were also concerned about the psychological toll of the shootings. In Maryland's suburbs outside Washington, Montgomery County Public Schools will have counselors available at each school Monday to support the system's 149,000 students. Chief of Staff Brian Edwards said officials posted advice online from the National Association of School Psychologists on Friday to help parents talk about acts of violence.

"Obviously, this is a very difficult situation that all school communities are dealing with and the entire nation is dealing with," Edwards said, adding that the system doesn't discuss security procedures. "You can't change what occurred, but you try to do the best you can to help families cope."

 
 
 

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