The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office and school officials met Tuesday to discuss safety and security procedures in county public schools, after the Dec. 14 massacre of 20 students and six school staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
In the wake of the tragedy, school systems across the region and the country sought to help students return to a normal routine last week. But many school districts, including Loudoun, also upped security measures — including increased police patrols — and said that officials would conduct reviews of safety protocols.
At the meeting Tuesday, sheriff’s officials met with school personnel, area police chiefs and county administrators to address whether additional measures could increase safety for Loudoun students and to launch a review of current procedures.
The sheriff’s office assigned a task force to follow up on ideas raised during the meeting, Sheriff Mike Chapman said, including the possibility of enhancing technical communications between the sheriff’s office and the schools, to help deputies quickly identify emergency situations.
Chapman said the sheriff’s office is also planning additional training for deputies and integrated training with other police departments, to ensure that all county law enforcement agencies are prepared and would be able to respond in sync in the event of an incident.
Loudoun has deputies at all middle and high schools, and Drug Abuse Resistance Education officers are also assigned to elementary schools on a rotating basis, the sheriff’s office said.
Sheriff’s officers are “conducting more active outreach with school parents than was previously done by our sheriff’s office, and have plans in place to handle a variety of emergency situations,” Chapman said in a statement. “Collaboratively, we are reviewing those plans to make sure they are up to date and accomplish our objectives of safety.”
Spokesman Wayde Byard said the county public schools established rigorous safety protocols after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack and for the heightened terror alerts that followed. Schools practice lockdown drills and have plans for emergency scenarios, he said.
“We are already doing more parking lot surveillance, as well. That was upped after Columbine,” Byard said, referring to the 1999 mass-shooting at Columbine High School in Denver that killed 13 people.
Byard also noted that even though elementary schools do not have dedicated school resource officers, deputies stationed at nearby middle and high schools are poised to respond quickly should they be needed.
“The response time is fairly quick, because the schools are all fairly close together,” he said. “We have a great partnership with local law enforcement agencies, and we’re glad for that.”