TRUCKEE, Calif. — Student safety continues to be Tahoe Truckee Unified School District’s top priority in light of Monday’s shooting in nearby Sparks, Nev., officials said.
“Schools should be the safest places on Earth, and it’s a violation to our culture when they are not,” said Susan Phebus, principal at Alder Creek Middle School.
On Monday, around the time of morning bell, a Sparks Middle School student opened fire on campus, wounding two 12-year-old male students and killing eighth-grade math teacher Mike Landsberry, who was reportedly trying to protect students. The shooter, reportedly a 12-year-old boy, also died in the incident, killing himself.
The two wounded students were both in stable condition Monday night, according to reports. Their names, along with the shooter’s, had not been released as of press time Tuesday. Authorities Tuesday said they’re withholding the shooter’s name out of respect for his family.
“We never want to hear about violence at school, but this one hits close to home,” said Rob Leri, TTUSD superintendent, in a statement. “Our hearts go out to the victims, their families and everyone involved in this tragedy. Tahoe-Truckee mourns with our neighbors in Sparks”
Upon learning of the shooting, Leri said he sent a notice to all district administrators — from principals to school board trustees. He then checked in with each of the district’s 11 schools and their principals. Law enforcement also checked in with school sites.
“Whenever there is a school tragedy, our thoughts can’t help but turn to our own children and their safety at school,” Leri said. “Providing a safe school environment for our scholars is a top priority for TTUSD.”
Each district school practices lockdown drills on a regular basis to prepare students and staff for threatening situations, Leri said, and an evaluation is done afterward to identify areas of improvement.
The lockdown procedure has teachers lock their classroom doors, turn off lights, close blinds and shades, and get all students to one side, away from doors and windows, explained John Britto, TTUSD director of facilities, in a school safety interview last spring.
“Basically, make everything as invisible as (we) can to someone coming on the campus,” he said.
Recent facility improvements include replacing all district locks — so doors can be locked from the inside — and addressing blinds and ensuring closure is not obstructed, Britto said.
Leri said the district purchased a new emergency radio system last year so all school sites can be reached simultaneously to ensure immediate contact, even in case of a power failure.
Work is being done to replace the district’s internal announcement system in order to better notify all on campuses of a lockdown initiation, along with other announcements, Leri said.
System installation is under way at all Donner Pass Road schools, with completion anticipated in February 2014, he said. Remaining school announcement system replacement will be phased in over the next year or so.
“Unfortunately, you can never have the perfect situation, but you can try to make sure you’re doing what you can to make everyone as safe as you possibly can,” Britto said.
In addition, new security protocols have been established, including required check-in at all school offices and visitor badges, Leri said. Students who ride buses to and from school have a ZPass that monitors when they get on and off the bus and where the bus is at all times.
A district-wide safety committee meets regularly and involves staff and emergency responders, among others, Britto said. Each school site also has a safety committee, along with a safety plan document that gets updated each year.
“We always review our drills and producers on a regular basis, and this (incident) is a reminder to always be vigilant,” Leri said.
Parents and community members who have concerns or suggestions regarding school safety are encouraged to share them with school site principals.
“(Monday’s shooting is) a reminder that our most precious resource is our children and to protect them socially, emotionally and physically,” Phebus said.
According to the Associated Press, the 12-year-old shooter in Monday’s incident got the weapon from his home.
Washoe County School District police said Tuesday they are still working to determine how the boy obtained the 9mm semi-automatic Ruger handgun. The boy’s parents are cooperating with authorities and could face charges in the case, police said.
“Schools should be the safest places on Earth, and it’s a violation to our culture when they are not.”
Principal, Alder Creek Middle School