Northeast Nebraska Schools Emphasizing Safety In Wake of Florida Shooting

NORFOLK — Heartbroken.  That’s how two northeast Nebraska school administrators described their feelings on February 14th when they heard about the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Director of Human Resources and Accreditation at Norfolk Public Schools Mike Hart says it hits home in more places than just his professional world.

“Your mind goes back as a dad, as an administrator, as a community member – gee whiz – I want to make sure that that does not happen in our community,” Hart said.

Stanton Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Sieh says it resonated with his staff extra hard because many of them were at a threat assessment workshop when the news broke.

“(It) validates why you’re there,” Dr. Sieh said.  “Why are we doing this threat assessment? Because we know that Florida is a zillion miles away from us but, in reality, it could happen here in a heartbeat.”

The administrators struck similar notes again when asked if something like the shooting at Stoneman Douglas could happen here.

“Am I going to say that somebody could never get in a building? I’m not going to say that,” Hart said.  “We always do everything we can to make sure that we’re as safe as possible.  But, could a door get left open accidentally or something, unfortunately that could happen.”

“With the resources we have, we’re doing everything that we can do,” Sieh said.  “But understand that a tragedy at a school can happen any time.”

So what are the schools doing to keep students safe?  Well, at both schools you need to be buzzed in by the office to enter the facility.  

On top of a secure entry point, Hart says NPS schools conduct quarterly intruder drills so students and staff are prepared.  He says the District simplified its standard response protocol to four easy-to-understand settings: lockout, lockdown, evacuate and shelter.

“If you hear lockdown or lockout and it’s repeated, you know we need to take some action,” Hart said.  “So, real simple, real blunt, real to the point…”

Stanton Schools are emphasizing investigating rumors – especially those on social media.

“We spend a lot of time researching these rumors,” Sieh said.  “I can tell you that if we ever found a rumor to be true, that you would see some changes happening real quick.”

So, before the day begins, both area districts start by looking at one thing: safety.

“Before learning, before curriculum, before activities, before anything else comes – we have to keep our kids safe and our staff safe,” Hart said.