Flags across the nation fly at half-mast today as the entire country mourns the loss of innocent lives in Newtown, Conn. last Friday.

In the aftermath of searching for any semblance of an answer as to why the horrific incident took place, area school districts are looking at their own security measures and are sending reassuring messages to the parents of their students.

Waxahachie Independent School District

Superintendent Thomas J. Collins of the Waxahachie Independent School District issued the following statement:

“We were deeply troubled to hear of the school shooting that took place this past Friday at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.   Our thoughts and deepest condolences are with the members of the entire community.   As Superintendent, I want to assure you that the safety of our students is the top priority of our school district.  We take seriously our responsibility to ensure the safety and security of your child every day while attending one of our schools.

“I want to take this time to remind you of the importance of our safety procedures and check-in processes for all visitors to our campuses.  It is imperative that you assist us in following all front office procedures when arriving on campus.  All visitors must enter our schools via the main entrances and check into the front offices immediately upon arrival.  We, also, ask that all visitors stop back by the front office when leaving your child’s campus.  

“Waxahachie ISD conducts regular drills, including those for a campus lockdown, and in 2010, we implemented the Raptor screening check-in process for all visitors to the campus. Our staff, also, undergoes emergency training each year, and the district conducts safety drills and debriefings with local first responders on a regular basis. Please take comfort in the fact that my cabinet and campus administrators continuously review our emergency policies to ensure we are providing a safe haven for your child.

“Please consider this letter as precautionary and reflective in nature in regard to the safety of our students and staff. We, also, ask that you partner with us by being our eyes and ears around the district in reporting any safety concerns you notice.  Protecting our children is a job without end.  Waxahachie ISD truly appreciates the commitment of our families and community to this important endeavor.  In closing, I want to assure you once again that the safety and security of our students has been and will continue to be our number one priority.”

Ennis Independent School District

The Ennis Independent School District sent a message about safety and security to its website and to Facebook and Twitter.

“As you know by now, an unspeakable tragedy unfolded last Friday morning at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the innocent children and adults who were slain in such an evil and senseless manner.

“We have all stood witness to violent shootings in recent years that have occurred in a variety of public places - shopping malls, movie theaters, places of worship, businesses and, yes, schools and universities. Thankfully, they don’t happen every day, but they nevertheless have become an all-too-common occurrence. As a nation, we all must work together to ensure that such incidents are prevented as much as possible.

“At Ennis ISD, the safety and security of our students and staff is always at the top of our list of priorities. In the wake of this tragedy, we know that sensitivities are heightened about school safety. Please allow us to detail the multi-faceted approach we take here in Ennis.

“First, we have invested in a four-member EISD Police Department that works at all hours to protect and serve our district. In addition to the officers stationed at the junior high and high school, there is at least one officer who rotates among all of our other campuses. The visibility of our police force is a key deterrent in and of itself. We also feel it’s important to have district police that can respond quickly to any emergency at our campuses.

“Secondly, we have restricted access to all of our campuses, with all entrances locked. All visitors must be buzzed in, with cameras at the entrances that provide immediate visual identification. Once inside, all visitors are routed through the front office where they must provide photo identification. They are processed through our Raptor electronic system to determine if they are on an offender list, such as sex offenders.

“Third, we have approximately 350 cameras located at EISD facilities around the district. They are placed in strategic locations to give us the ability to monitor activity both inside and outside of our buildings.

“Fourth, we have a multi-hazard plan in place that provides guidance in responding to different types of emergencies, including those that require lockdowns of classrooms. Any 911 call made within the district automatically results in a cohort of district staff, including EISD police, being notified immediately of the call. We stay in communication with the city’s police and fire department to ensure the proper response to any emergency that might arise.

“In addition, we run emergency drills and provide training so that our teachers and staff are prepared in the event of an emergency. Our staff is trained to be watchful and highly observant, especially in situations that appear to be out of the ordinary. Our credo is simple - it is better to be safe than sorry.

“We have made significant strides over the past decade to make our schools as safe as they can possibly be, and we will continue to make improvements as needed. Can we say with absolute certainty that any violent crime is 100 percent preventable? Unfortunately, the answer is no, but that is true of anyplace. However, we feel that our approach that combines deterrence, prevention and response is one that helps provide a safe and secure learning environment for our students.

“In conclusion, we hope to see more efforts made around the country to combat the culture that promotes hate, anger and lack of regard for human life. Efforts such as Rachel’s Challenge, which we are launching next month, are a step in the right direction. Kindness and compassion can no longer be seen as empty gestures or slogans to be simply ignored. This is as real as it gets - if we are kind and compassionate to one another, we are much less likely to hurt one another. Please join us in accepting this challenge.”

Midlothian Independent School District

Midlothian Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Jerome Stewart posted the following letter on the MISD website:

“Dear MISD Families,?Our prayers and thoughts are with the victims, their families and the community of Newtown, Connecticut.  In light of this tragic event, we would like you to know that the safety of the children and adults of Midlothian ISD is always a priority.  With that in mind, here are a few of the many district’s safety procedures and measures.

“Long time working relationship with and support of the Midlothian Police and Fire Department;

“Continuous staff emergency exercises conducted with the fire and police department at the campuses and district level;

“The MISD Safety and Security Coordinator works as a liaison between the district and fire and police departments on safety training and awareness;

“Single point of entry for visitors;

“Multiple security cameras installed at each campus;

“MISD has a detailed crisis management plan and each campus has its own specific plan; and

“Students and staff of each campus are aware of their campus plan and practice drills to prepare them in event of emergencies.

“This tragedy is a reminder to be aware of all surroundings and report any unusual situation and/or suspicious people to the proper authorities. Again, the safety of all students and staff remains a top priority for Midlothian ISD.”

Red Oak Independent School District

Dr. Scott Niven, Red Oak Independent School District Superintendent, sent the following letter to ROISD parents.

“As employees of public schools, and many of us as parents, our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the tragic events that unfolded in Connecticut on Friday.

“The Red Oak Independent School District and schools across the nation are reviewing their safety precautions in light of this tragedy.

“I want to reassure you that safety is our top priority in Red Oak ISD. Every campus in this district has extensive safety procedures in place and 100 percent of our employees complete safety training annually. It is our policy not to release details of our safety measures.

“You, as parents and guardians, entrust in us your greatest asset each day when your children enter our schools. We do not take this responsibility lightly or casually. If you have any questions in regards to school safety, please feel free to contact your child’s principal or call Adi Bryant, Public Relations Director, at 972-617-2941.”