York County school leaders, shaken by shooting, prepare for the worst, make plans to counsel students

York County superintendents, shaken by shooting, try to prepare for the worst 

scetrone@heraldonline.comDecember 15, 2012 

In the wake of the shootings at a Connecticut elementary school that left 20 children dead, York County school officials said counselors will be available at all campuses in the four districts for students who have questions or need consoling next week.

Students are welcome to come as needed, and parents who want to schedule time for their children to talk with a counselor can call, email or visit their school.

“If we see that any kid needs any help, we’ll offer it right away,” York schools Superintendent Vernon Prosser said.

After hearing the news Friday that a gunman had opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., that morning, Rock Hill schools Superintendent Lynn Moody said she immediately ordered schools to be on heightened alert.

Rock Hill principals on Friday left recorded messages for families, urging them to talk with children about school safety.

In particular, Moody said, children and parents should be alert on campus and report any visitors they see not wearing an identification badge. And if students hear someone knocking on a locked door, they should not open it.

A gunman killed 26 people – 20 of them children between the ages of 5 and 10 – in the Friday morning shooting.

The gunman walked into a classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary and fatally shot 20 students, most in the same classroom. He also shot and killed five other adults and then himself inside the school. One person was injured.

Superintendents said they were shaken by the news.

“I just wanted to lock down every single school and hold down every single child and protect them,” Moody said.

“The tears are coming up just watching it,” Fort Mill schools Superintendent Chuck Epps said. “It’s just so incredibly unbelievable. These kids went to school today; all they wanted to do was learn.”

“It’s just an empty feeling,” Prosser said. “I wanted to reach out in any way I can, but I felt helpless.”

Epps said Fort Mill principals will contact families as well.

School systems across the country have focused on campus security since 1999, when two teenagers at Columbine High in Colorado went to school armed with guns and homemade explosives and killed 12 students and a teacher.

At schools in York County, all doors but the front entrance are locked. Security cameras roll. Visitors must sign in at the front office.

Rock Hill school visitors must scan their driver’s license or ID at the front office before they’re given an ID sticker with their photo on it.

Schools in Rock Hill, Fort Mill, Clover and York run drills to prepare for the worst.

Fort Mill schools worked with police to run mock lockdown exercises simulating a shooter on campus. Students were not in school for those drills, Epps said.

Rock Hill schools have run similar drills and sent undercover visitors to test security measures at campuses. Older campuses are undergoing renovations to make them less accessible.

“We’ve invested a lot of money in security,” Moody said.

Shawn Cetrone 803-329-4072

The Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service