In light of Friday’s Connecticut school shooting tragedy, mental health officials will be poring over every detail of the case to find out how a tragedy like this can be prevented, said a local Child and Family Health official.
A teacher’s son clad in black and carrying two guns rampaged through a Connecticut elementary school Friday, killing 20 small children and six adults, including his mother, in the nation’s second-worst school shooting, law enforcement officials said.
The gunman, identified as Adam Lanza, 20, was also found dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, law enforcement officials said. Lanza’s mother is a kindergarten teacher at the hilltop school,and it’s inside her classroom where most of the casualties were found, according to NBCNewYork.com.
“I mean the main thing though is that we try to prevent these things, but it’s never preventable,” said Larry Schallert, director of program development for the Child & Family Health Center in Santa Clarita.
“But a lot of times, if you have boots on the ground from the mental health community, you can pick up some of these dangerous situations before they happen,” he said.
It was a sentiment echoed by local school officials, who said they have reactive plans in place in case something happens.
“I know people want to hear, ‘Oh, we can prevent it,’ but there’s just not much we can do (outside of a reactive plan),’” said Marc Winger, superintendent of the Newhall School District Winger.
Winger said he plans to put an added adult presence outside of schools Friday when classes are dismissed to help offer re-assurance to parents, and he shared the district’s security measures that are put in place when there is an intruder.
Beyond having separate plans for the various types of emergency, including a campus intruder, there are also special lockdown procedures depending on the type of incident
There are varying levels of security in place, he said, and also multiple means to communicate.
“Among the adults, if they’re on the playground, we have handheld radios for everybody,” Winger said.
“And if there’s a situation, with the principals, internally, we use phones system, texts and email alerts (to notify the parents), and we use certain codes if needed (over the intercom), so they’re not just talking right out there (and panicking children),” he added.
The biggest challenge is staying on top of developing new and proactive measures, said Schallert, who works with schools in several different capacities through his work at the center, including the creation of crisis prevention teams and addressing students that may have issues that could lead to problems.
One of the things health officials will do is look at every aspect of the case in an incident like this, so officials can find out what happened and to see what could have been done.
In California, continual state funding cuts to the state and county mental health departments — both of which work in concert with the center whenever there’s a crisis — create difficulties in identifying these types of problems, he said.
The end result means fewer and fewer “boots on the ground.”
“We don’t have funding to go out to all of them — we go out to the ones that have the most need,” Schallert said. “It’s extremely frustrating because there’s more need than we have resources for.”