Maine schools told to review emergency plans
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine’s education commissioner on Monday asked school districts around the state to review their emergency response plans in the aftermath of the mass shootings at a Connecticut school that killed 20 pupils.
Stephen Bowen sent memos to schools that, among other things, asked officials to review their emergency management plans, said Department of Education spokesman David Connerty-Marin. The plans are required under state law and deal with emergencies ranging from natural disasters to chemical spills to somebody showing up in school with a gun.
Coincidentally, an interagency school emergency planning committee made up of officials from the education department, the Maine Emergency Management Agency, the law enforcement community and other agencies are to hold a regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday to look at proposed changes to security planning rules. One proposal would require schools to hold lock-down drills in addition to evacuation drills already required by law, Connerty-Marin said.
‘‘Although we have not had lock-down drills as a requirement, that doesn’t means schools haven’t done that,’’ he said.
School systems across Maine were offering help and information to students and parents following Friday’s shooting in Newtown, Conn., where 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed 20 pupils who were 6 and 7 years old, seven adults and himself.
Maine schools are required to review their response plans each year and have them approved by their local school boards. The plans are developed by schools in conjunction with county emergency management agencies and local police, fire and rescue departments.
The state education department recommends keeping all school doors locked except for the front ones. School buildings that are funded by the state are designed with features that include a focus on security, Connerty-Marin said.
Those schools, for instance, have numbers assigned to and placed over exit doors to make them easier to identify, have one main entrance that typically has controlled entry, and have lots of glass so school staff can easily see who’s coming and going.
School officials confiscate weapons each year from students who bring them to school.
But there’s only one case in memory that involved a weapon being fired at a Maine school, said Department of Public Safety spokesman Steve McCausland.
In 1995, a 17-year-old student at Gardiner Area High School brought a loaded rifle to school, held two assistant principals and three secretaries against their will for more than an hour and fired a single shot into the air outside the building while students fled. Nobody was injured.
In a case in which no shots were fired, a gunman burst into a school in Stockton Springs and took pupils in a fifth-grade classroom hostage in 2008. He was tackled outside the classroom before anybody was hurt. Ronald Hofland, 59, is serving a 35-year sentence on a conviction of kidnapping and other charges.