The Edmond Sun


December 18, 2012

Reviewing school crisis plans

OKLA. CITY — I spent the weekend thinking about how incomprehensible it is that anyone could take the lives of 20 elementary school children, the six adults who tried to protect them and his own mother. I cannot fathom the grief engulfing the Newtown, Conn., community right now. The stories of heroism by teachers and school personnel are inspiring. Every day teachers do courageous things for our children. I have no doubt that they and the fallen adults did not have a moment’s hesitation in response to this horrifying situation. To say my thoughts and prayers go out to them is too small an offering.

With the enormity of what happened in Connecticut still rocking the consciousness of the nation, I know that every parent in America is asking the same questions — how safe is my school? How did this happen? How could this be avoided? Those questions are being asked by Oklahoma parents, grandparents, educators and virtually each citizen of our state. Over time there will be answers concerning the attacker’s motive, but for now all of us must turn our focus on assuring that we have done everything possible to assure the safety of Oklahoma’s children in their classrooms.

I am confident that every school district in our state right now is focused on reviewing their safety plans and redoubling their efforts to make sure their policies are strong. In Oklahoma, every public school district is required to have a crisis plan that is reviewed and updated annually, as appropriate. They also are required to perform a minimum of two lockdown drills per school year that must conform to the procedures established by their school board. The situation in each of our districts varies with respect to the architectural configuration of each site, the availability of first responders and the district’s own policy concerning communications with families in the event of a lockdown.

I urge each district in the state to review these policies with their boards to determine if the policies need to be revised and then to assure that each employee of the district is very familiar with the policy and procedures. Every employee must know their roll in the event of a emergency such as this. I was impressed with the tornado disaster drill I had the opportunity to observe in the Jenks School District last spring. Students played the roles of victims while staff worked to form command teams that coordinated with first responders, helped to triage the “wounded” and made sure all students stayed safe until they were reunited with parents.

The point of the exercise was to assess the school’s safety plan; it is an exercise repeated each year with different disaster scenarios. I was impressed by not only the comprehensive nature of the drill and the coordination by all first responders with the Jenks school personnel but also by the way that every tiny detail of the response during the drill was observed, discussed and a plan developed on how to continually improve their response to this emergency. I applaud their efforts and urge each district to consider conducting a similar drill not only for natural disasters but also for those procedures that must take place to secure buildings in the event that a threat to student safety should occur.

As each district reviews their plan, I want to remind them that additional resources are available from the U.S. Department of Education that can be accessed on the State Department of Education’s Youth Violence Prevention website.

I know that each and every one of us are focused on assuring day in and day out that each child in our state is safe and feels safe within their school. Through vigilance and constant communication among educators, parents and law enforcement, we can work together toward that goal.

May God bless the memories of the fallen.

JANET BARRESI is state superintendent of public instruction of Oklahoma. She may be reached via her website at

Text Only
  • Loosening constraints on campaign donations and spending doesn’t destroy democracy

    Campaign finance reformers are worried about the future. They contend that two Supreme Court rulings — the McCutcheon decision in March and the 2010 Citizens United decision — will magnify inequality in U.S. politics.
    In both cases, the court majority relaxed constraints on how money can be spent on or donated to political campaigns. By allowing more private money to flow to campaigns, the critics maintain, the court has allowed the rich an unfair advantage in shaping political outcomes and made “one dollar, one vote” (in one formulation) the measure of our corrupted democracy.
    This argument misses the mark for at least four reasons.

    April 23, 2014

  • The top 12 government programs ever

    Which federal programs and policies succeed in being cost-effective and targeting those who need them most? These two tests are obvious: After all, why would we spend taxpayers' money on a program that isn't worth what it costs or helps those who do not need help?

    April 23, 2014

  • Free trade on steroids: The threat of the Trans-Pacific Partnership

    Many supporters of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, trade agreement are arguing that its fate rests on President Obama’s bilateral talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Japan this week. If Japan and the United States can sort out market access issues for agriculture and automobiles, the wisdom goes, this huge deal — in effect, a North American Free Trade Agreement on steroids — can at last be concluded.

    April 22, 2014

  • Can Hillary Clinton rock the cradle and the world?

    What's most interesting to contemplate is the effect becoming a grandmother will have on Hillary's ambition. It's one of life's unfairnesses that a woman's peak career years often coincide with her peak childbearing years.

    April 22, 2014

  • Chicago Tribune: If Walgreen Co. moves its HQ to Europe, blame Washington’s tax failure

    The Walgreen Co. drugstore chain got its start nearly a century ago in downstate Dixon, Ill., before moving its corporate headquarters to Chicago and eventually to north suburban Deerfield, Ill.
    Next stop? Could be Bern, Switzerland.
    A group of shareholders reportedly is pressuring the giant retail chain for a move to the land of cuckoo clocks. The reason: lower taxes. Much lower taxes.
    If Walgreen changes its legal domicile to Switzerland, where it recently acquired a stake in European drugstore chain Alliance Boots, the company could save big bucks on its corporate income-tax bill. The effective U.S. income-tax rate for Walgreen, according to analysts at Swiss Bank UBS: 37 percent. For Alliance Boots: about 20 percent.

    April 21, 2014

  • Sulphur a future major tourist destination?

    Greta Garbo says, “I want to be alone,” in the 1932 film “Grand Hotel.” That MGM film starred Garbo, John and Lionel Barrymore, Wallace Beery and a young actress from Lawton named Joan Crawford. It told the stories of several different people who were staying at an exclusive hotel of that name in Berlin Germany.
    It was critically well received and it inspired more recent films such as “Gosford Park” and television shows such as “Downton Abbey” in that it detailed the relationship between powerful and wealthy people and those who served them. The film opened amidst much fanfare and it received the Oscar for best picture in the year of its release.

    April 21, 2014

  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Why poverty across the world matters to Americans

    A child starving in South Sudan should matter to Americans. That was the message delivered last week by Nancy Lindborg, whose job at the U.S. Agency for International Development is to lead a federal bureau spreading democracy and humanitarian assistance across the world.
    That world has reached a critical danger zone, with three high-level crises combining military conflict with humanitarian catastrophes affecting millions of innocents in Syria, the South Sudan and the Central African Republic.
    But back to that child.

    April 18, 2014

  • Government leadership complicit in overfilling prisons

    One of the thorniest problems facing any society is the question of what to do with transgressors. Obviously, the more complicated a culture becomes, the more factors come into play in trying to figure out what to do with those who choose not to “play by the rules.”

    April 18, 2014

  • My best days are ones normal people take for granted

    It is a weekend for working around the house. My fiancee, Erin, and I have the baby’s room to paint and some IKEA furniture to assemble. I roll out of bed early — 10:30 — and get into my wheelchair. Erin is already making coffee in the kitchen.
    “I started the first wall,” she says. “I love that gray.” Erin never bugs me about sleeping late. For a few months after I was injured in the Boston Marathon bombings, I often slept 15 hours a day. The doctors said my body needed to heal. It must still be healing because I hardly ever see 8 a.m. anymore.

    April 18, 2014

  • Instead of mothballing Navy ships, give them to our allies

    A bitter debate has raged in the Pentagon for several months about the wisdom of taking the nuclear aircraft carrier George Washington out of service to save money. The Washington, at 24 years old a relatively young vessel, is due for a costly refit, a routine procedure that all of the 11 large carriers in service undergo regularly.

    April 18, 2014


Do you agree with a state budget proposal that takes some funds away from road and bridge projects to ramp up education funding by $29.85 million per year until schools are receiving $600 million more a year than they are now? In years in which 1 percent revenue growth does not occur in the general fund, the transfer would not take place.

     View Results