HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana's top education official urged school leaders Friday to review their emergency plans and procedures in the wake of a Connecticut school shooting that killed 20 children and six adults.
Every public school in Montana is required to have a plan to respond to all kinds of emergencies, from an intruder to a fire to a bomb threat. Such a plan is meant to minimize the risk of a tragedy such as the one that unfolded Friday morning in Newtown, Conn.
But there is no requirement or set process for Montana schools to review their plans, prompting Office of Public Instruction Superintendent Denise Juneau to release her statement.
"I encourage our school leaders to review their emergency plans, policies and procedures and ensure all staff members have a clear understanding of what to do in an emergency situation," Juneau said.
"I know that Montana families will be hugging their children a little bit tighter tonight," she added.
OPI Chief Deputy Dennis Parman said there also are no statewide requirements for what should be included an emergency plan. Each plan is individually tailored for that school and reviewed by the state's 320 school systems, he said.
Generally, though, they can include common practices such as limiting the number of doors available to the public during the school day, requiring identification for visitors and posting a guard at the door of larger schools.
If there is an emergency, the plans generally include guidelines for alerting staff, clearing hallways and locking down the school, along with evacuation locations and procedures to notify parents.
Such an emergency plan was put in place last year when there was a shooting in Pryor on the Crow Reservation, Parman said. Schools were put on lockdown while the shooter was at large.
No children were injured in the December 2011 shooting that killed one man.
Gov. Brian Schweitzer on Friday ordered flags to fly at half-staff until Tuesday in respect for the Connecticut victims.