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 December 3, 2012


I know that I join many of you with a broken heart for the victims of the
Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy. It is beyond our comprehension that such a
horrific act of terror could possible occur to our youngest and most
innocent citizens. It is the reflection of these events that cause us to
think more seriously about our own children and note the things that we so
often take for granted. One of those things is the fact that our children
are dropped off at school each day with the belief that we will see them
safe and sound at the end of the day. Over the years, as our society has
changed, school systems across the nation have stepped up to created
safety plans to address even the worst case scenarios. Many of you may
have seen Gary McGiboney on the news this week as he discusses school
safety in light of the Sandy Hook tragedy. Dr. McGiboney was employed
with the DeKalb County School System prior to working at the State and
National levels. He worked hard to create a safe school plan for DeKalb
that is now shared nationally.

The purpose of my message is to reassure you that we have measures in
place that are designed to keep your children safe. Each year, every
school is required to submit an extensive Safe School Plan that details
the role of every staff member in the event of an emergency. The plan
requires every detail of a possible emergency to be put in place from
reunification locations, to first aide stations, to security of the
building. In addition, we are mandated to keep two emergency response
boxes in the front office that are supplied with photos of the school,
directory of staff and students, radios, emergency signage, flashlights,
and other important school documents. The Safe School Plan and emergency
boxes are monitored by our School Audit Team who will arrive unexpectedly
to make sure all safety measures prescribed by DeKalb County are in place.

Additionally, we receive an Emergency Response Booklet at the beginning of
the year. The book describes emergency procedures for events such as
fires, tornadoes, intruders, chemical warfare threats, etc. Our staff
reviews these responses at the beginning of each school year, and we
practice drills for fire, tornadoes and intruders on a regular basis. The
next intruder drill will be held in January. Our intruder alert has three
levels of lockdown. The first level occurs when there is a crime related
event in our neighborhood. At this level, all students are brought into
the building and all external doors are locks. No one is allowed to enter
the building during the lockdown. The second level of lockdown occurs,
for example, when a suspect is on the run in the community or we have the
threat of a hostile citizen near the school. In this event, students
surpass the level one lockdown and go into the classrooms with the doors
locked. Instruction continues but no one is allow in or out of the
rooms/building. At level three lockdown, there is an immediate threat to
our building and student safety. Teachers are instructed to secure
students in the nearest room (bathroom, conference room, classroom, etc.)
and to take any student in the hallway with them. Students are then locked
in the classrooms with the lights off, and they are instructed to huddle
in the back corner of the room and remain silent. The level three
lockdown is one that we practice.

While we have reactive strategies in place for emergencies, I believe in
being proactive to prevent emergencies. We ask that all visitors sign-in
at the front desk and provide a reason for needing to be in the building.
I know that this practice is unwelcoming and offensive to some, but it is
a measure to keep our students safe. Over the next months, I will be
talking to a few parents, the PTO, School Council, and teachers about any
gaps in our existing procedures that could be changed to better protect
our students. In the meantime, I wish you all all a relaxing break spent
with the ones you hold most dear. We will continue to keep the victims of
our nation's tragedy in our hearts and prayers.

Jennifer P. Sanders

Dunwoody Elementary School
1923 Womack Road
Dunwoody, GA 30338
Phone (678) 875-4002