Central Fla. reacts to mass shooting at Conn. school

Published On: Dec 14 2012 03:28:31 PM EST
Updated On: Dec 14 2012 11:55:13 PM EST

Awareness is being heightened throughout Orange County Public Schools after a mass shooting killed nearly 30 at a Connecticut elementary school.

ORLANDO, Fla. -

The Orange County Sheriff's Office released a statement on Friday saying awareness was being heightened throughout Orange County Public Schools after a mass shooting killed nearly 30 at a Connecticut elementary school.

"We are deeply saddened by this senseless tragedy," said Demings. "It is unthinkable that someone would want to do harm to children as they were with their teachers in elementary school classrooms."

Authorities in Connecticut say the gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Friday morning at 9:40 a.m. CBS reports his mother was a teacher at the school.

Seminole County Superintendent Walt Griffin released a statement on Friday expressing sorrow for the school.

"As superintendent of Seminole County Public Schools, I want to assure the parents, staff, students and neighbors that we pledge the highest level of safety standards at our facilities," said Griffin. "Though we don’t specifically speak to matters of security, know that there is nothing more important to me, to this school board and to this community than the safety of our students.”

As children ran to their parents outside the Connecticut school some said teachers saved lives.

One child told reporters, "I saw some of the bullets flying through the hall that I was standing next to, then a teacher grabbed me and pulled me into her classroom."

It's a worst-case scenario that Orange County school leaders said they're prepared to handle.

"We conduct school emergency response training for each and every one of our 23,000 staff members, so that they know their role and practice their roles and responsibilities in times of crisis such as this," said OCPS Board Chairman Bill Sublette.

Even so, teachers fear they don't have enough training.

Diana Moore, president of the Orange County Teacher's Association told Local 6 that she thinks all schools should have lockdown training every month, but they don't.

"I know I have done lockdown training, but we haven't done them in a while. We've done tornado drills. We've done fire drills," said Moore.

However, district leaders said security plans are in place.

In fact, there's a master security plan and each school is equipped with it's own individual plan.

School security chiefs said 80 principals have trained alongside deputies to handle "active shooter scenarios."

Also, right now, two school resource officers keep watch at every high school, one at each middle school, and deputies rotate among elementary schools.

While security continues to increase when needed, OCPS experts said there is no way to prevent every tragedy.

"They're public schools, they're not prisons, they're not jails," said Sublette. "We have no intention of making them lockdown facilities with barbed wire around them."

Local 6 spoke to parents at Red Bug Lake Elementary on Friday who said they struggle on what to tell their children about the shooting.

"I think I would find out how much she knows first, "said mother Carmen Luciano. "I wouldn't want to burden her with extra information but I do think it's important to discuss."

Local 6 spoke to child psychologist Dr. Andrew Pittington on how parents can discuss the shooting with their children. View the video by clicking here.

Deputies asked for residents to report any suspicious activity.

"As we continue to monitor the unfolding situation in Connecticut, we want to remind parents and children to remain vigilant at all times," Demings said.

It's not the first scare Central Florida has had in the past few days. On Thursday, Winter Park High School was on a modified lockdown after a Facebook threat was received about shooting the school. Police are trying to contact the person but haven't released the name.

Winter Park police say they do not believe Thursday's threat was connected to what happened in Flagler County or Connecticut, but many parents and students are still feeling very worried about attending school.

"It's very scary," said Monica Sanders, who has two children who attend Winter Park High School. "It's almost like you don't really want to send them to school."

For Winter Park students, the reaction was the same.

"It's hard to imagine that there's somebody out there that's that cruel," said student Nailah Bowen.

"Yesterday was probably one of the scariest in my life to be honest and it was just like horrifying to think that someone could come in and shoot us," said student Olivia Phillips.

Rachel Kaufman also came to pick up children from Winter Park High on Friday. Kaufman grew up in Connecticut, just 15 minutes from where the shooting took place.

"I mean Connecticut is definitely the last place that I would have suspected for this to happen especially with how important security is in the public school system there," said Kaufman. "I don't really know what is safe to be honest."

A spokeswoman for Volusia County schools says the district plans to have guidance counselors on high alert on Monday to look for kids who may be having trouble processing everything that has happened. Volusia district officials will also likely meet on Monday to go over security plans.

Marion County is now out of school for winter break, but district officials will likely review their security plan once they return in January.

Watch Local 6 News for more on this story.

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