The Newtown, Conn., shootings have raised concern across the country.
Many parents are questioning their school district's training in these hectic situations of gunmen and strangers on campuses. And Hannibal is no different.
Some moms and dads are concerned with district policy, others are trying to cling to the hope that something like that couldn't happen in this small, intimate community. Others just want piece of mind with the understanding the schools do everything they can do to keep children safe.
"Immediately I received emails from parents just asking what security measures were, because a lot of people don't realize what schools do behind the scenes," Hannibal Superintendent Jill Janes said Monday morning.
Parents gathered at Eugene Field Monday afternoon for the annual Christmas show. At times the line was crowded in the school lobby and out the door because longtime school policy requires all school guests to sign in and take a visitor's sticker.
In the school's auditorium, those in attendance talked about the Newtown shootings and how they're addressing it with their children.
"I'm trying not to worry about it I guess. I don't want to think nothing like that could ever happen," Mondill French said. "My kids ask questions, but I told them hopefully that was just a random accident and hopefully nothing like that will ever happen. I don't want them to start worrying about stuff like that."
Kevin Williams has 16 grandchildren in the Hannibal school district. Thus far there have been no questions from his youngsters about the tragic shootings.
"It's unbelievable, your heart goes out to the families that are touched by this and you realize they're in a bubble and numb to all this and you can't imagine this happening to a local community. It does remind you that we're not exempt, even though we're a small community, evil can come to our small communities that we think are safe," he said. "I think they've (Hannibal school district) done a good job. I went to get my kids several times, you have to through certain procedures. They don't just let you in, they ask questions and I think they're doing as good as they can without armed guards. I think they're doing pretty good."
But Max Capp, who is heavily involved in the Hannibal community, has a daughter in middle school and at Mark Twain Elementary. He is concerned about building access.
"I had seen (the shooting) on the news and I just started processing it and the more I thought about it through the weekend, I just thought that morning I went and took lunch money to both my kids and I was able to actually — this was after kids had gone into school ... the middle school, I was able to walk right in the front door, and I could've went anywhere possible," Capp said. "My big thing is, being in law enforcement myself, your primary shooter is going to probably focus on the middle school or high school, that's your two targets because that's where the age level is."
Page 2 of 3 - Capp said he hasn't kept his kids from the news reports and has advised them on what to do if a school shooting occurs.
"I've basically told my kids to do one thing; if shots are fired or you hear shots, get on the ground. Don't be standing up, don't be a target, stay low to the ground. If you can get to an exit, get to one, get out and run as far as you can and call me," he said.
Superintendent: 'Come talk to me'
With the final school board meeting of the year scheduled for Wednesday, a number of parents have already indicated they plan to attend and voice their concerns and demand answers on district protocol in emergency situations.
Janes wants all to know she is available to talk to parents who have questions.
"Parents need to understand they can come talk to me any time, and I welcome parents to call and come by and set up a meeting because I know they're concerned and I will be happy to speak to anybody about what we're doing and the measures we have in place to keep their children safe, and that also to listen to any suggestions that they may have that we can look at. I'd tell them not to wait, come and talk to me any time."
Janes said there are "ongoing conversations" with the Hannibal Police Department to have a large drill on one of the school campuses and that all teachers and schools are trained throughout the year for intruders.
"Just want to be careful about the type of drill, so that it doesn't cause any kind of panic with children and parents. All of our schools have what's called intruder drills that are part of their drill schedule. Each school kind of sets those schedules of when they have those. I can't say if any have had them yet this year, but it's funny because I did notice one set on a calendar for January, so I know our schools are thinking about those, and they do their drills periodically throughout the school year," she said. "We train our teachers on the drills but I think some of that is innate because teachers, their first thought is about the children, so it's kind of that protective nature. It'd be like a parent with a child. You're going to protect your child before you protect yourself."
The Hannibal School District's policies and procedures were not going to be on the board of education's agenda for their regular meeting Wednesday, but given the Newtown shootings, School Board President David Jackson has augmented the meeting plans so parents and the public can address their concerns to the board.
Page 3 of 3 - "We're going to go ahead and put it on the agenda just because we want to talk about it, we want to address it and talk about it," Jackson said. "We have a lot of policies in place already, we've been pretty proactive on this, but just to reassure everybody that we are."
Capp plans to attend the meeting and pitch his suggestion for a drill. He said all should be involved: parents, teachers, staff, HPD, Marion County Sheriff's office and the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
"All of them need training as well as the students, and teachers, and faculty as a whole," he said. "Have a date and time for this, at least a date. If the parents don't want their kid involved in this, then withhold their kid from the school, and it won't be considered an absent, they can just be held from the school that day and not participate."
The Hannibal Board Of Education meeting is 7 p.m. Wednesday at the district's administrative offices.
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