Tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School
Newtown, Connecticut, December 14, 2012
Comments by Joseph A. Ovick, Ed.D., County Superintendent of Schools
After the horrifying events of December 14, educators across the nation joined all Americans in conveying their thoughts and prayers for the 20 first graders and six adults who were killed in the senseless shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, as well as for the families and loved ones of the individuals who lost their lives and the entire Newtown community.
We, as educational leaders, also spent time carefully reviewing our local plans for responding to emergency situations that could occur.
As Arne Duncan, secretary of the US Department of Education, recently wrote after the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, “Not all tragedies can be prevented. But schools and districts need to be ready to handle crises, large or small, to keep our children and staff out of harm's way and ready to learn and teach, and recover from such tragedies should they occur.”
All public schools in California are required to have Emergency Preparedness Plans for an array of emergency situations from fallen aircraft to an uninvited visitor on campus. All staff are to be familiar with the plans and understand what they are expected to do to protect students and staff. The holiday break was a time for administrators to assess the plans, and upon the return of staff and students after the break, to review the protocols again with them.
Our plans require coordination with law enforcement and other first responders. It is common practice that local police and deputy sheriffs are familiar with our schools and with key school personnel. Some of our school districts have local police officers serving as School Resource Officers through contractual arrangements between the school district and local police departments or the Sheriff's department. It is very important that first responders be familiar with our school campuses, staff, and students before an emergency, so that they can quickly respond to the immediate situation.
As I reflect on the tragedy that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary and ask myself what could we do to prevent a similar event from occurring in the future, it is readily apparent that we must come together in a comprehensive, coordinated effort to not only make our schools safe, but to also make our neighborhoods safer for all. This will require a sincere multi-agency response from federal, state, and local governmental agencies, as well as support from our elected officials from all levels of government. Citizens, too, have a role to play: Remember, we live in a democracy—it is important to be informed and to be willing to express one's views to our elected officials and to become involved locally.
The media plays a vital role in accurately reporting the news. Currently, the issue attracting the greatest interest from the media appears to be gun-control legislation, including the need to register all weapons. Are assault weapons really necessary for citizens to own? Should high-capacity magazines be available to citizens for private use under the Second Amendment of the US Constitution? And, lastly, should we arm our educators and/or assign police to our school campuses?
Susan Faust, local librarian and children's book reviewer, recently contributed an opinion piece in the San Francisco Chronicle where she stated, “The massacre in Newtown begs us to look anew at ourselves and at a basic tension in our national life, the so-called right to bear assault weapons, as backed by the NRA, versus the constitutional vision, set out in the Preamble to the Constitution, that balances domestic tranquility with the blessing of liberty. It is time to ease the tension in favor of common ground, common sense, and the common good.”
As a sportsman who has hunted and continues to enjoy sporting clays, trap and skeet shooting, and who owns shotguns, I personally do not believe there is a need for any citizen other than law enforcement personnel and military personnel to possess assault weapons. This area of concern should be addressed by both state and federal legislation. I also firmly believe we should not arm our educators, rather, we should work to problem-solve at the local level, community by community. We also need to address treatment for mental illness, which will require discussion and action at the federal, state, and local levels.
Let's remember, bottom line, we need to protect our most precious treasure, our children, and common sense must prevail in all that we do on behalf of our children and their future.
Bay Area News Group video interview: Contra Costa schools superintendent on security in local schools
The County Office of Education is an essential part of Contra Costa's outstanding
public school system. Overall, our county's students rank high on virtually
every measure of achievement - from test scores to college entrance
job in the County Office is to support the success of Contra Costa's
18 school districts, their schools, and their 168,000+ students.
provide exactly the support that's needed by operating like a business.
Our customers in school districts can choose whether to use or
not use most County Office services. Superintendents and other
district staff tell us they do choose our services and are highly satisfied
with them because we:
effectively and efficiently with Contra Costa's school districts, the
County Office of Education strengthens our entire education system while
saving dollars dollars that can then be used in local classrooms.
of Schools Dr. Joseph A. Ovick administers all County Office of Education
programs and facilitates cooperation among schools, colleges, universities,
government and community organizations. He is responsible for monitoring
and approving all school district budgets. In addition, he serves as an
advocate for education with the legislature and the public.
Civility is a core value of a well functioning community and one of its defining components. Quality of life depends in great part on how community members treat each other. This initiative will promote the importance of civility in a world becoming less civil, and encourage community members to choose positive and respectful behaviors in their personal and work lives.