Public schools chief Tom Luna released a memo Monday to school district superintendents, charter school administrators and principals.

“The recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut is a stark reminder that no community is immune to random acts of violence,” he wrote. “My thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the Sandy Hook incident and their families; I know yours are too. As school leaders, it is crucial we do all we can to prevent violence in our schools and are prepared to respond.”

Luna included a few steps he encourages school leaders to take: Reach out to parents to explain what safety measures are in place to protect students, review crisis response plans for needed updates, and put proactive measures in place to prevent a crisis.

The Idaho State Department of Education plans to reconvene its School Safety and Security Stakeholder Group in January.

After Luna took office in 2007, he secured $150,000 to conduct a safety assessment of Idaho schools. It included hundreds of survey responses, a dozen focus groups and 54 school visits.

Key findings included that school officials felt unprepared to address emergencies and not many districts had an updated crisis response plan. But communities were supportive of the need to address security issues.

Since then, the department has taken steps such as delivering statewide training for creating crisis response plans, working with vendors to negotiate lower costs for security equipment, partnering with the state’s Bureau of Homeland Security to include county emergency coordinators in planning efforts, and establishing security recommendations for new school construction.

— Julie Wootton

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