Northeast Mississippi schools review safety plans

Several Northeast Mississippi school superintendents said they will review their district’s safety plans in the way of today’s fatal school shooting in Newton, Conn.

“When something like this happens, you want to double check and make sure you are doing all you can,” said Itawamba school system’s superintendent, Michael Nanney.

Nanney said he asked all of his principals on Friday to review the crisis plans for their individual schools. He also had conversations with Itawamba County Sheriff Chris Dickinson.

“You don’t want to panic because we have these plans in place, and you want to be proactive instead of reactive,” he said.

A gunman shot and killed at least 26 students and parents at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday. Details of the shooting are still emerging, but Tupelo Assistant Superintendent Matthew Dillon said the district plans to learn from the incident.

“We try to make sure we are prepared for any type of scenario that has happened in the past or could happen,” Dillon said. “We try to make sure the safety of our students and faculty and staff is the first thing on our mind.”

That was also the advice of Randy Sprick, educational consultant for the national organization Safe and Civil Schools.

“My only advice in the shorter term is to adhere to, and perhaps review current safety plans,” he said in an email conversation Friday. “In the longer term, review what is learned from the current tragedy to see if there are any additions/modifications that can be made to make the school even safer.”

Lee County Superintendent Jimmy Weeks said he would discuss the incident with principals at their Monday afternoon staff meeting.

“Let’s make sure you’ve done all of the required drills,” he said. “Let’s keep people aware and keep this on the front burner.”

Nettleton Superintendent Russell Taylor said tragedies like Friday’s are a reminder to be extra cautious. He said the district had a discussion on Friday afternoon about its preparations.

“You can’t afford not to think about that,” Taylor said. “It is the most unpleasant plan you’ll ever go through and the most unpleasant thing you’ll talk about, but you can’t afford not to talk about it so everyone is where they need to be.”

Meanwhile, Dillon, the Tupelo assistant superintendent, came to the district after serving as principal at Pearl High School, where a 1997 school shooting was among the first such incidents in the nation. Dillon was not at Pearl at that time but worked with several staff members who were.

“It makes you aware that the safety of students, faculty and staff is at the forefront of every decision you make,” he said. “Safety is at the top of every decision. You need to be proactive. You can’t be reactive.”