Maine Schools Fail to Develop Emergency Contingency Plans

AUGUSTA, Maine – On Nov. 14, Maine’s Homeland Security Task Force found that many Maine schools have yet to create emergency plans in case of an attack by a terrorist or unwanted intruder.

Education Commissioner Susan Gendron intimated that she may withhold state approval for the continuing operation of a school if it fails to comply with the mandatory emergency plan law. For now, she will be putting schools that have failed to develop emergency plans on probation.

Though some schools have begun to develop plans, these plans are usually riddled with flaws, Gendron said. Furthermore, schools are not training or conducting enough drills.

Sen. Ethan Strimling, D-Portland, co-chairman of the Homeland Security Task Force, said his committee may requisition funds from the state to help Maine’s schools get up to date on emergency plans. In tandem with this financial incentive, the committee may also impose heavy penalties on schools that fail to comply.

Contributing to the committee’s lack of confidence in the preparedness level of Maine schools is the Lewiston Sun-Journal’s dramatized coverage of the paltry security situation at many schools. A recent article in that newspaper indicated that reporters were allowed to walk uncontested through several school campuses.

The task force, which will be meeting two more times this month, will make recommendations to the state Legislature next month after it has explored all avenues for dealing with schools’ failure to implement reliable security plans.

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