Most La. schools districts have crisis management and response plans

At least 52 percent of Louisiana’s public school districts made changes to their crisis management and response plans after a gunman opened fire at a Connecticut elementary school.

New measures include additional staff, more frequent drills and an increased law enforcement presence on campuses, state Superintendent of Education John White told the Louisiana House Committee on Homeland Security Thursday at the State Capitol.

Legislators and Gov. Bobby Jindal are looking at school safety in Louisiana following the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Adam Lanza allegedly shot and killed his mother before driving to the school and opening fire. He later took his own life.

Twenty schoolchildren and six adults died in the shooting spree after Lanza blasted his way into the school.

Before his death, Lanza apparently struggled with issues that caused him to isolate himself.

White said the state Department of Education surveyed local school districts on their crisis management and response plans. Additionally, he said, consideration is being given to doing more to bring health services in line with schools. “We’re becoming more aware as educators of the mental health needs of our kids,” he told the committee.

State Rep. John Schroder, the committee’s chairman, warned White that time is waning to draft bills for any ideas that require legislation.

The regular session starts April 8.

Schroder, R-Covington, told White to get with legislators sooner rather than later on needed changes. “We need to just pour our brains into it,” Schroder said.

Schroder said he has received more emails and phone calls on school safety in the past 30 days than on any other issue.

He said he wants to make sure everything is being done from a legislative standpoint.

White said the purpose of the department’s surveys was to identify what is provided to each school. He said the results showed:

  • 98 percent of districts that responded have crisis plans in place for all schools.
  • 81 percent updated their plans in the past year.
  • 56 percent have rehearsed plans at all schools this year
  • 52 percent have made changes since Sandy Hook.

White said the changes include visitor policy revisions, locking doors and additions of video surveillance.

Gary Jones, policy liaison with local superintendents for the state Department of Education, said school districts are grappling with a new crisis scenario.

“In the past, most of the schools’ emphasis has been on emergency response for things like hurricanes and things like that,” Jones said. “This is a new area for them.”

The next steps at the state level will be to complete the surveys, identify needs and connect needs with resources such as grants and external partners, White said.

White said he will coordinate meetings at the local level between school systems and law enforcement.