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District reviews safety procedures in light of Newtown shooting

December 26, 2012 - Oxford Community School officials were deeply saddened by the school-shooting tragedy that took place in Newtown, Connecticut on Dec. 14, according to Superintendent Dr. William Skilling

"It's very difficult and even very emotional for me personally to see the faces of those young innocent children whose lives were taken for whatever reason," he said. "I don't think we know yet."

In light of the tragedy, Skilling said it's caused them to review all of their safety procedures to see if there is anything missing from what they've done in the past.

"For six years we've been working on school safety," he said.

In 2007, a community committee was convened which consisted of Oxford Village Police, Oakland County Sheriff's Office, government leaders, business leaders, school officials and Parks and Rec. to work on plans of action for various scenarios, including natural disasters, epidemics and potential terrorist acts within the school.

Skilling said they received a Homeland Security Grant in 2009 to do a further study, where they actually staged a terrorist attack at the high school.

"We tried to create a realistic situation of what would happen if there was a terrorist act in the high school and how emergency responders would handle it," he said. "So it gave our local (first-responders an opportunity) to practice and evaluate what they would do, in case of some sort of terrorist acts (occurred) in one of the buildings."

The staged scenario, said Skilling allowed them to come up with a very comprehensive plan as well as analyze and review their facilities.

"This is why we have the safe and secure entrances at every building," he added. "So no one at the start of the school day can access the building without going through the office. Prior to this you could go into our building and not even be noticed."

Other security measures included installing security cameras in every school that are web based and can be tapped into at any time by emergency personnel, as well as having two-way radios with a channel specified for police and fire in case power was lost and the ability for teachers to make an all-call and alert the entire building if there is a need for a lockdown.

Skilling said they practice not only fire drills but terrorist intruder attacks twice a year, but even with the greatest security measures, Skilling said there is no 100 percent way to ensure security in schools.

"I think we have to consciously still be doing due diligence and saying 'what can we do to make our schools even safer?' he said.

However, Skilling did point out a lot of children were saved in Connecticut by enacting their safety measures.

"If you think about the one teacher who had all of her kids in the cupboards and closets and told the perpetrator that her students were in the gymnasium," he said. "All of the children were saved."

Skilling said incidences like Columbine, the Amish Schoolhouse, and Newtown shootings have been paradigms to cause schools to rethink safety issues at different levels.

"Even though we've been blessed with the support of our community in developing safety plans to keep our kids safe," he said. "There is still more we can be doing and we are working (to improve) on a plan that's already in existence."

Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.
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