MAYVILLE - The elementary school shooting on Friday in southwestern Connecticut kept the Chautauqua County Sheriff's Office on alert.
Sheriff Joe Gerace said all personnel in his office were notified as reports of the shooting came in, which left 27 dead, including 20 students, as well as the gunman.
"Well in cases like this you notify all personnel about the situation," Gerace told The Post-Journal hours after the Newton, Conn., shooting was reported. "We have policies and practices in place. There is always concern about a copycat, so we monitor what is going on. If there is a situation in a school, we want to be notified. We have plans and interventions in place."
"We practice these situations routinely for immediate use and response. The lesson learned from the Columbine shooting was not to wait for the special units like SWAT to arrive, but to enter the facility immediately once they arrive," Gerace said.
According to Kaine Kelly, superintendent of Sherman Central School, action taken by the school in terms of security is largely contingent upon careful planning and its proximity to the site of an incident.
"In any time of tragedy, and especially in the case of school violence, we pause to reflect on our own preparedness," he said. "At the end of the day, when something like this happens, it causes us to stop and question (whether) we're prepared for something like that if it were to happen in our school. In this case, it appears that this was an isolated incident so it isn't a situation where we would have to perform a lockdown. The last thing we would want to do is heighten fears and bring more anxiety to students and staff who could already be scared."
In light of the shooting, Kelly sent out an all-staff email addressing the issue.
Gerace said local police agencies prepare for a variety of incidents, many including the lockdown of area schools if a crime were to occur nearby.
"We practice with a lot of agencies," he said. "We provide other preventions to our schools, and you learn how to prevent them. But you learn what to do in those situations."
He added: "Lockdowns are really only used (locally) when there is an immediate threat. The school isn't always the safest place to be when there is an immediate threat."