Branstad Urges Schools to Review Safety Plans

By Rod Boshart, Reporter

DES MOINES, Iowa - Gov. Terry Branstad used his weekly news conference Monday express sympathies to the families, friends and community members struggling to deal with the aftermath of a shooting spree at a Newtown, Conn., school where 20 children and six adults were fatally shot.

"The thoughts and prayers of all Iowans are with the families and friends of the innocent victims of this senseless tragedy," Branstad said. "While it is difficult to understand such an evil act, we do know our children and grandchildren remain our most precious gifts and ensuring their safety in our communities is absolutely critical."

Mark Schouten, administrator of the Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division (HSEMD), noted that his agency earlier this year put in place a new school safety guide to assist schools in making plans and establishing procedures to make their facilities, students and staff safer. He said the guide covers a variety of emergencies, including how to respond to an intruder with a gun who enters their school intending to do harm, but he also hoped that parents, teachers and others would contact their local school administrators regarding the safety measures they have in place in the wake of last week's tragedy.

The Connecticut school shooting also has prompted calls for stronger gun control laws and conversely for having trained shooters on site at schools to respond to such emergencies.

Branstad urged caution regarding any law changes, saying he preferred to "review all options instead of jumping to any conclusions." He said he expected his office and state legislators to "very carefully look at all options," which he added would include increased attention on mental health services and anti-bullying efforts in schools that might contribute the escalation of threatening events.

The governor also asked the media to show restraint in covering the school shooting to minimize the potential for copy-cat crimes.

Schouten said about 500 copies of the school safety planning guide have been distributed to school administrators, school nurses, emergency management coordinators, and first responders over the last few months. Electronic versions are available at the HSEMD website: www.homelandsecurity.iowa.gov or can be obtained from your local emergency management coordinator.
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