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Safety is top priority for Norfolk schools

April 15, 2018 GMT

One always hopes and prays that the latest school shooting will be the last. That the tragedy in Florida and Maryland won’t be repeated elsewhere.

Unfortunately, no one can assume that will be the case. Which then naturally focuses attention on what can be done to make schools as safe as possible.

In the wake of recent shootings, this has been a highly discussed topic, ranging from arming teachers and installing metal detectors at school entrances to hiring armed security guards.

A Daily News story by Erin Bell recently highlighted what the Norfolk Public Schools has in place to ensure student safety. It left us impressed and reassured.

For example, a new reporting tool, called SafeSchools Alert, recently has been implemented. It allows students, parents or community members who have a concern — ranging from bullying to a suspected threat to students — to report a tip via either text, email, web or phone.

But the school district also is regularly working on its comprehensive safety plan. It has established secure entrances for individual school buildings. It has an established safety team that involves coordination with the Norfolk Police Division. The police department also holds training sessions at the school in the summer and brings officers through every building to get familiar with the layouts.

The public school district — as well as Norfolk’s parochial schools — use standard response protocols suggested by the Nebraska Department of Education. The protocols include what to do in a lockout when the threat is outside the building, a lockdown when the threat is inside, an evacuation situation, which would occur with something like a gas leak, and then a shelter situation, which would occur if there was a tornado or other natural disaster.

And one of the best safety features is the presence of Dave Lichtenberg, a Norfolk police officer who serves as a full-time school resource officer at Norfolk High.

Because he is a regular, visible presence, it allows for the establishing of relationships with students so that they will feel more comfortable sharing information about a problem situation or possible threat.

“We’re always evaluating, always looking at what our options are,” Officer Lichtenberg said. “We are always looking at what’s best for our kids.”

Can all of these safety precautions and efforts guarantee nothing tragic will happen in Norfolk like it has elsewhere? Of course not. But it’s reassuring information all the same.