Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Friday

December 14, 2012

School safety on locals' minds after Conn. shootings

TRAVERSE CITY — Principal Lee Ann Stephan fielded questions about school safety from anxious parents as they picked up their students from Crystal Lake Elementary School on Friday.

Just this week Benzie Central Schools conducted district-wide lock-down drills to prepare staff and students for events similar to the horror that occurred Friday morning in an elementary school in Connecticut, Stephan said.

Locking classroom doors and having students take shelter is the general protocol for schools, she said.

"It was just a tragedy and I've been reassuring parents," Stephan said. "We do our best to be prepared if any situation should happen, but we are generally hoping and praying that it never happens. It's so sad."

Parents found the news disturbing. It was only last week that Traverse City Central High School alerted parents that a student was found in possession of a gun, though not on campus, said Stella Astor, who has a high school daughter, 16, and a son, 10, at Eastern Elementary.

"It's scary to me," said Astor.

Astor is from Tanzania, where no one is allowed to have a gun.

"It's different than here. I can see why people get them because some people are crazy," she said.

Astor opposes Michigan's newly passed legislation that would allow concealed weapons on school grounds.

"You shouldn't carry a gun unless you're a security guard," she said.

John Beattie, of Traverse City, has four children, ages 4 to 13. He called the shooting tragic and likely the act of another desperate and mentally ill person who did not get help.

'No amount of policy'

Kingsley Area Schools Superintendent Keith Smith said the tragedy stresses the importance of reporting any indications that someone may launch into a violent episode.

"Obviously, when someone sends their kids to school they expect them to be safe, and we make them as safe as possible," Smith said. "But there is no amount of policy you can put in place to prevent what happened."

"Unless we operate schools like prisons we are susceptible to these kinds of incidents," he said.

Traverse City Area Public Schools board member Gary Appel knows Fairfield County, the county where the shooting occurred, from traveling around the East Coast.

Appel described the area as "beautiful," with "rolling hills."

"That is a fairly insulated community in terms of some of the day-to-day violence some Americans live in," Appel said. "... you don't put that together with this kind of violence, but I guess it can happen anywhere."

Fellow board member Megan Crandall called the shooting a terrible, scary situation.

"We can all say we are thinking of (the victims) and we will help them in anyway we can, but I can't even imagine the terror and the anguish they are feeling."

Text Only