By Gina Smith
January 2, 2012
There certainly have been some notorious school shootings in the past few years. We all remember incidents like Columbine High School in 1999, Virginia Tech in 2007, and the recent shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut. There have also been many smaller incidents throughout the United States. According to stoptheshootings.org, 386 school shootings have occurred since 1992.
Although the large-scale tragedies are heartbreaking, the smaller-scale school shootings are also devastating for any community.
In a community like Lincoln County, any shooting, particularly one in a school setting, would be especially tragic and heartbreaking.
Lincoln County School District has plans in place dealing with such scenarios.
Superintendent Nykki Holton has guided the schools in all communities through a set of drills, as required by the state. These drills cover a variety of situations and are overseen by the Sheriff’s office and local emergency medical services. After drills, staff is debriefed as to what went well and what can be improved on.
The state also required the district to have written security plans for each school and revise them on a yearly basis.
Local law enforcement also has school security as a high priority.
“We have been working hard with the School District to keep our kids safe,” said Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee. “We have stepped up our presence and our patrols in and around all the schools here in the county. Officers are going into the schools on a regular basis along with officers from the Nevada Highway Patrol. The Sheriff’s Office will continue to work hard to keep all our kids safe. We also plan to revisit our school response plan and make sure that we are working with the schools to keep it up to date.”
Each school’s security plan “is designed so staff, parents and students feels safe,” Holton expressed. “Everyone has a role – students and staff, and they all know their role to ensure safety.”
As a part of the Panaca Elementary plan, when school resumes from holiday break, the doors will be locked. Each student, parent or guest will be buzzed in to gain entry to the school. Other schools are currently looking at their school plans to see if any security changes should be made.
“We encourage everyone to be vigilant,” Holton said. “If something seems out of place, don’t be shy about reporting it. Watching for bullying or harassment issues is important. Realizing that there are resources, we have access to mental health to help families or anyone that is in need and we can help guide them through.”
Holton also encourages “open communication” as a key to successful safety to our kids in the community. Public is always encouraged to get involved. “We work very hard to make sure students are safe with us. Parents and public awareness is very important to our success,” she added.
County resident JoLin Schimbeck looks at school security as teacher, mother and wife of a police officer.
She of course worries for her family’s safety, but the training her husband also brings her comfort. “I am so grateful that Evan has the skills sets and is able to use them to keep him and the public safe,” she said.
She also sees the strength that comes with community members looking out for one another. “Parenting is a lot safer here than larger communities. Everyone rallies around each other in times of need. It is neat to be in a community that is mindful and supports each other.”
As a teacher, Schimbeck sees the importance focusing on “human life” and “to be more aware of situations and watchful. To strengthen the family unit and the respect of human life is vital to safety in our schools.”