Cobb, Marietta schools tighten security after Conn. tragedy
by Kim Isaza and Lindsay Field
newseditor@mdjonline.com, lfield@mdjonline.com
December 15, 2012 12:37 AM | 6935 views | 21 21 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — Both the Cobb and Marietta school districts have tightened security at schools in light of the deadly shootings at an elementary school in Connecticut on Friday.

James Arrowood, the director of public safety in Cobb, reached out to local police departments Friday afternoon asking for “extra police and duty presence at all Cobb County Schools next week.”

“This request is due to the tragic elementary school shooting in Connecticut (Friday),” he wrote in a mass email to Cobb police chiefs. “Many parents are extremely upset and apprehensive, which is to be expected with such an event.”

Arrowood went on to advise the local departments that Cobb Schools will be in session Monday through Thursday, then will be out for the Christmas break until Jan. 8.

“Your assistance and visibility would be greatly appreciated and go a long ways in easing fears,” he said.

Cobb spokesman Jay Dillon also sent out an email to principals Friday, advising them that they may be “inundated with phone calls from concerned parents asking what security measures we have in place in our schools.”

“In Cobb, we are fortunate to have superb security resources, including police officers in every middle school and high school, surveillance cameras throughout all school buildings and electronic access control for elementary schools,” the email states.

Dillon went on to say that these resources go “a long way toward maintaining a safe learning environment for our students, but as you are well aware, no security measure available can protect against every conceivable threat.”

“It is important that we reassure parents that the safety of their children is our highest priority, and that we will be vigilant and use the resources we have available to ensure that students stay safe under our watch,” he states in the email.

“If you encounter any parents who are simply inconsolable, then our Public Safety Department is available to speak with them about the security measures we have in place. Hopefully this information will be useful as you deal with the inquiries that are sure to come.”

Dayton Hibbs, Marietta City Schools’ associate superintendent, said they too have comprehensive safety plans in place, ranging from a weather issue to a student falling ill, to school lockdown.

“If a person has this level of intent, and are intent on harming people, I’m not sure there’s a specific plan that can be 100 percent preventative of a situation of this magnitude,” he said. “I’m sure districts across the nation will reflect upon their protocol. We’ll use this as a learning tool. (Georgia Emergency Management Agency) will perhaps provide districts with some guidance as details are learned about this horrific situation.”

Hibbs continued by saying that like Cobb Schools, Marietta City Schools wants parents to know that student safety is their No. 1 priority, even before learning.

“Our business is educating student outstanding, but safety absolutely comes first,” he said. “We take it extremely seriously and do everything in our ability to protect our community’s children.”

Marietta City spokesman Thomas Algarin also said any visitor in Marietta is required to report at the school’s front office and must prevent an ID card at the elementary level.

“They scan it and check the database,” he said. “That protocol has been in place for awhile.”

As far as school access, they have keyless entry at the secondary entrances and keep them locked. The front doors are open with video surveillance, and the front office staff is always monitoring with video surveillance as well.

There is no campus police at elementary schools.

Marietta City will be in school Monday through Friday next week then break for the holiday until Jan. 7.

In response to the shootings, Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews has also ordered that the U.S. flags within the city limits be flow at half-mast until sunset Tuesday.
Comments
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The Big Picture
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December 19, 2012
I have read all the concerns that parents have about the safty of their children at school. Our children are precious and we want them to be safe, however I worry more about message we are sending them, if we require our schools to stay in a state of lock down while they are there. I have been to countries where police are armed and posted everywhere you turn. When I see places like that, it makes me feel so blessed that my children do not have to grow up worried they are in constant danger. The school shooting was a terrible tragedy, however, the school involved did enforce all the security measures parents are asking for, and it still occured. I have been a parent at Still Elementary for 17 years now, and I know that several parents have commented on the lack of security at our school. I am at this school volunteering several times a week, and I have never once felt that any of the children were in an unsafe environment. The administration does a wonderful job caring for each of the students. If we choose to have the school locked, then should we not allow the children to go outside and play on the playground either because that is even a bigger threat? I have 6 children and it breaks my heart to think of what the parents of Friday's victims are going through, but I also realize that we can not protect our kids from every tragedy that might occur. What we can do is, love them, treasure every moment with them and let them know that we live in an imperfect world, but if we allow ourselves to focus on the bad things that happen, we will miss out on so many of the great things. I think having schools on lock down and watching police patrol their school halls takes away some of their childhood innocence and will change the way they view the world they are growing up in.
Still Concerned
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December 17, 2012
My husband went in just this morning with our child to drop something off in the class. He did not sign in nor was he questioned by anyone entering or leaving the school. No one would have known if he never exited the school. We have always had concerns of the lack of security. You only have to show ID if you check out your child. Anyone can "check in" the school b/c rarely are you even acknowledged. Furthermore, if someone intended to do harm, they will most likely decide not to go out of their way into the office. There is nothing or no one btw the entrance and the classrooms and that is a problem! Part of the issue is with the entrance layout, but other precautions must be taken.
Cobb Parent
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December 17, 2012
You're all delusional if you think anything short of a school being run like a prison is going to guarantee any level of safety. It doesn't matter if you have a policeman there or not. The assailant simply walks up the policeman (if he happens to be at an entrance)and kills him before he can react. Then the assailant simply walks into the school and does what he wants. Short of armed guards being on full alert with guns drawn, you can not stop someone from getting in and doing harm. Unless you start stopping visitors and searching them "outside" a perimeter gate, with another guard as backup, you can't stop it. The buildings are too big and too many points of entry to reasonably protect them from a motivated assailant. The only thing police presence might get is a smaller body count by confronting the shooter at some point, but it won't stop X number of killings.

What's practical given the funding and resources is far from what it will take to make students really safe at school. The biggest advantage students have is numbers. So many schools, so many students, the odds are in their favor. That's all you can count on at present.
Lib in Cobb
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December 16, 2012
I have visited a West Cobb elementary school many times and I was never challenged while walking into or out of the school without a security badge.
Cobb Parent
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December 16, 2012
I urge every parent and family members that have children attending Cobb schools,to bring this issue to light.A proactive solution to protect our children from the vermin that hurt us and our neighbors. Call your government representatives and be involved. The persistant voice of the people need to be heard and this tragedy needs to be prevented. My sincere prayers go the whole community of Newtown.
westcobb
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December 15, 2012
I teach at a west Cobb elementary school. We were not advised that this terrible shooting happened, nor did staff see any extra security at our school. I knew nothing until I got home and saw the news. I think staff should have at least been notified and aware because of copycat killers.
Can you please
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December 16, 2012
post a list of all the same-day copycat school shootings?
yeah right!
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December 15, 2012
Marietta City spokesman Thomas Algarin also said any visitor in Marietta is required to report at the school’s front office and must prevent an ID card at the elementary level.
StillDad
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December 15, 2012
I'm not sure if a police presence at the elementary level would guarantee our children's safety but it certainly couldn't hurt. As far as existing security measures go -they are only effective if they are actually implemented. At Still elementary for example, I can walk into the office and print a visitors sticker without anyone asking to see my identification. I hope this is due to the staff recognizing my face, but they really should as for an ID. Perhaps this would help to discourage someone bent on doing harm or at least give someone an opportunity to interract with them and perhaps notice if they are behaving in a suspicious manner. Wouldn't guarantee anything but could stop someone just the same.
Also Still Parent
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December 16, 2012
I concure with your statement Still Dad. There is NO system at Still to keep unwanted individuals away from our children. There is NO electronic access control. Cameras are great for finding out what happened AFTER THE FACT. I know budgets are strectched thin, but this incident in Connecticut is not the beginning. It is a trend in suburbia America. Still Elementary, as is most of Cobb County Elementary schools, is suburbia America. The county Board of Education, with the assistance of PTSA groups if possible, need to step up and add law enforcement officers to EVERY Cobb elementary school in light of Friday's events.
the man
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December 17, 2012
I once walked all around my kid's school with an ID sticker that said "NO ONE CHECKED MY ID" - the teachers did not think it was so funny when I explained it to them.
anonymous
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December 17, 2012
To The Man: If I had seen you your sorry face would have been planted in the floor with me on your back.I dont like "funny" in those situations.
Still Father
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December 17, 2012
To Also Still Parent: have you actually ever visited Still Elementary? If so you would be aware that the school does have an electronic access system. Additionally all parents must sign in and receive a visitors pass. If at anytime a person is in the building without a visitors pass they are immediately escorted to the office. All teachers and students are routinely participating in all safety drills, all from tornado, to fire, and lock down drills. I have full faith in Still's administration and staff to put the safety of my loved one first and foremost. Making our schools a fortress is not the answer. The tragedy in Connecticut occurred because a mentally ill person shot his way into a locked school.
StillDad2
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December 17, 2012
Still father: obviously you have not been to Still recently. On SEVERAL occasions I have walked right into the office and printed my own visitor sticker without anyone even acknowledging me. Perhaps the "system" is in place but it is not always implemented by those on duty. I applaud any effort to safeguard our children but the way the current system is implemented is not cutting it. Even if the chances of something like the recent events is very remote, think about the possibility of a non-custodial parent showing up to take their child. If I wanted to, I know I could do it. I don't doubt the sincerity of those in charge but I do doubt their ability to plan for and respond to a threat to our children's safety. This is why we hire and train a police force.
Sill Father
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December 18, 2012
Still Dad2: yes I have been up to Still recentl. In fact I was there just today. Why are you printing your own visitors pass without announcing your visit? School is a place for the students not sneaky parents. There is no plan that can be implemented against crazy people. Our loved ones are safe at Still. They are just as safe there are in their own living rooms.
Comet81
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December 15, 2012
'There is no campus police at elementary schools."

Maybe that needs to change. It's also great that they reported that....not only a gun free zone but no police! My wife is a elementary teacher here and I've found security very lax when I've visited her....
LibinCobb
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December 15, 2012
We as a nation should not forget the victims, the famiies of the victims, those who loved the victims.

We should also not forget, the second amendment was not written to make murder more efficient. The pure availablility of the aresenal used by Adam Lanza, made this mass murder of 20 innocent children and 6 adults very possible.
anonymous
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December 16, 2012
Stop posturing for political reasons. Just stop.

Let's address what we can control right now. Let's grieve. Enough propaganda.
comet81
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December 17, 2012
His sickness and our inability to deal with it as a society is what contributed to this...

Lib in Cobb
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December 17, 2012
@anonymous: The pure availability of guns is not political posturing, it is the absolute truth and it contributed to this shooting and many others greatly.

We are all hurting, but every aspect of what made this massacre possible must be looked at.
anonymous
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December 18, 2012
There was no "pure availability" of an arsenal.

He tried to buy firearms at a Dick's sporting goods store last week but was denied. His intent was so fierce that he killed his own mother, shot her in the face four times, in order to get her legal guns. Guns legally bought even in the most stringent of gun control states. The lesson: people intent on doing violence will find a way.

Remember the Gwinnet County case of a mentally ill guy who planted a hammer in the first kid he saw when he went to a school. Remember the case of the Islamic jihadist who mowed his SUV over kids at UNC/Chapel Hill? Remember 9-11? Your solution did not stop any of these crimes.
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