As authorities in Newton, CT, continue their investigation into the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary school, parents and school officials across the country — including Muskego — are left to grapple with the kinds of questions nobody can really answer.
Why would someone do this? Why would someone enter a school and unleash such a bloodbath? Why take the lives of innocent children?
And then come the inevitable "what if?" questions.
What if it happened here? How safe is my child’s school? If there was an emergency, what safeguards are in place?
Friday's tragedy “makes me reflect on everything that we have in place that provides a safe environment for our children,” said Dennis Bussen, assistant superintendent for the Muskego-Norway School District. “We always think about what we have in place here in our district.
"All of our schools have a building crisis security plan in place and all of our schools here practice their building lockdowns, building hall clearing codes, fire drills, tornado drills, evacuation drills and everything of that nature," he said. "Basically, I start to think about our schools and how things are here in all of our schools.”
The threat of a dangerous visitor entering a school building is always real. The schools work with the Muskego Police Department to do everything they can to quell that danger.
“They’ve got to keep their doors locked during the school day to any visitors and all of our visitors must enter through an exterior door security-type of system,” said Bussen. “All of our schools require visitors to then enter the main office and sign in, pass through a checkpoint. All of our schools also have school resource officers. They are Muskego police officers who are assigned to each building.”
Bussen acknowledged that contacting parents in such a time of crisis is difficult work. However, he believes the district is prepared.
“Contacting parents is all laid out through our crisis plan,” said Bussen. “We have a district crisis plan and we have one for each building. We have a protocol in place that we follow and every building has one as well as the central office. It’s kind of a ‘cookbook,’ let’s say, although we know in those difficult situations it’s always trying to work through those processes. But we certainly do have a plan in place.”
Bussen also pointed out that the district has an emergency response team ready to spring into action.
“Our emergency response team is made up of our school resource officers, other members of the Muskego police department, administrators from every school, and lead custodial staff,” said Bussen. “It’s a pretty large group and we meet monthly to review our procedures and discuss them. It’s all about safe schools for us."
While he preferred not to comment directly about the incident in Connecticut, Bussen acknowledged that the tragedy shows once again that today’s world has become a very dangerous place, especially for innocent school children.
“Society seems to be a bit different and so we need to ensure that we have safe schools,” said Bussen. “That’s what we do.”
President Barack Obama said Friday afternoon that he had spoken to Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy and said the federal government would "offer every single resource that he needs to investigate this heinous crime, care for the victims, counsel their families."
In his remarks, Obama also referenced the August mass shooting at an temple in Oak Creek when he said:
"As a country, we have been through this too many times. Whether it’s an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago — these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children. And we're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics."
Wisconsin State Superintendent of Schools Tony Evers offered his condolences and support to Newtown as community members deal with the tragedy.
“These will be difficult times for parents and school children everywhere, including in Wisconsin," he said. "We must support and care for our children as they hear about this tragedy and try to understand that which is incomprehensible and senseless.”