In the wake of last Friday’s school shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., Fairfax County police are making their presence more visible at local schools.
“In response to Friday's tragedy in Connecticut, the Fairfax County Police Department will be increasing patrols and visibility this week around all FCPS schools, including elementary schools,” wrote Superintendent Jack D. Dale in a statement posted on FCPS’ website Sunday. “[The additional pratrol] 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. Police patrols will be increased throughout the school day from the opening of schools to dismissal. As always, FCPS security personnel will also be patrolling our schools, focusing on elementary schools during the school day.”
Students arriving at a Fairfax County public school Monday morning were likely to see either a police officer posted in a car or out of car greeting them.
“I personally was at a school this morning greeting kids and parents,” Master Police Officer Eddy Azcarate said. “I got a lot of ‘thank yous’ [from parents and students].”
The goal of the extra patrols, Azcarate said, is to reassure the community of the safety of their children.
All FCPS middle and high schools are assigned school resource officers, or SROs, who are police officers stationed at the schools full-time. The extra presence was focused on elementary schools, which do not have SROs.
“We’re doing it to let parents know we are here,” Azcarate said.
Both Fairfax County Public Schools and the local police have safety protocols for active shooters and other disturbances, he said.
“Active shooter training is something we have done and continue to do,” he said, adding that both police and school officials hope it is a training that is never needed.
Parents around the country responded in shock to the news of the Sandy Hook shootings. The gunman, Adam Lanza, 20, who grew up in Newtown, invaded the elementary school Friday, killing 20 children and six adults before claiming his own life. The victims of the mass shooting ranged in age from 6 to 56. Among the children were 12 girls and eight boys, all first-graders at the school. All of the adults killed at the school were women. Lanza is also reported to have killed his mother Nancy Lancy, who was the shooter’s first victim that day.
Fairfax County Public Schools is responding to the Connecticut shootings with additional support for students and staff at its schools.
Principals and teachers were given guidelines as aids to help them talk to students and parents about the Sandy Hook tragedy, said the school system’s Director of Intervention and Prevention Services Mary Ann Panarelli.
“One of the things we have done system-wide is we have trained all psychologists, social workers and councilors for a crisis,” she said. “When it is a crisis like this where it is not in your community, we provide some information to principals to share with their teachers before the school day starts… We provide the teachers with some kinds of questions that might come up and how they might be able to answer them.”
The school system has also posted aids top help parents talk to their children about violence and safety at school. More information can be found at www.FCPS.edu/news/resources.shtml.