Parents with children attending Racine Unified schools are reeling from the news that a shooter opened fire in a Connecticut elementary school, killing 27, most of them children.
Katie Richter has a fifth grader in the district, and she is wondering what many parents are thinking.
"Is it even safe to leave the house anymore? You can't even send innocent children to school anymore," she posted on Facebook.
And it isn't just parents who are scared. Daniel DiFiore, a student at Case High School, said he's both grateful a tragedy like this hasn't happened here and scared that it could.
"With all of these tragedies, should I be scared to continue my education at Case HS? I should talk to my parents about home schooling," he posted on the Mount Pleasant-Sturtevant Patch Facebook page.
According to ABC News, Sandy Hook parents rushed to the school, anxious for word about their children. RUSD personnel are well aware of how important it is to pass on information as quickly as possible, and they have a general plan in place that can be modified to fit the situation.
"It really does depend on the situation, but using the media, including social media, is always part of the plan because we know that parents need information quickly," Stacy Tapp, communications director for Unified, told Patch Friday.
Tapp also said this is where the emergency pink cards parents fill out each year become important. Schools run armed intruder drills and there is a secretary in the main office at each building responsible for taking those cards out when a school is evacuated.
"That's when we would use emergency email messages and using the district's website to get news to parents," she said. "In a situation like this, would there be time to grab the cards? We don't know, but we would utilize every tool available to pass information to parents."
Having said that, if a shooting like this were to take place, Unified officials also need to give support to, and receive support from, law enforcement.
"We do have to work with police and be careful about what details can be released," Tapp added. "We have to be sure that the information we're sharing is accurate and not interfering with what the police need to do."
Working with the media is usually most helpful, Tapp continued, because phone lines get clogged and gathering crowds at the scene can create confusion.
President Barack Obama is a parent, too, and this afternoon he was just as stunned as other parents.
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."
How the police respond
Since the 1999 Columbine, CO, shooting where two teenage gunmen killed 19 before killing themselves, local law enforcement has implemented a rapid deployment policy.
Mount Pleasant Police Chief Tim Zarzecki said every MPPD squad car is equipped with a rifle, a shield and a helmet. The first three officers on scene arm themselves with these items and gain access to the building at the first point they find. These first responders go directly to the shooter to neutralize the situation as quickly as possible and are joined as soon as possible by additional officers.
"The goal is to stop any further loss of innocent life so we don't wait for SWAT any more because it can take an hour for them to mobilize and that just increases the potential damage," he explained.
Since there are a number of locations where a mass shooting could take place, Mount Pleasant officers train in a variety of buildings.
"There was the shooting at the mall in Oregon plus the shootings in Oak Creek and Brookfield so we need to be familiar with a number of set-ups," Zarzecki said.