White House Hosts Panel on Handling Gun Violence at Schools

WASHINGTON — In an effort to protect the nation’s children and communities by reducing gun violence, President Barack Obama hosted a panel on Feb. 27 titled, “Taking Action: Creating Model Emergency Management Plans for Schools, Institutions of Higher Education and Houses of Worship.”

More than 100 leaders from the faith, education, law enforcement, emergency management and mental health communities, as well as survivors of gun violence, participated in the half-day event. Among the invitees was Natalie Hammond, a teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., where 26 people — including 20 children — were killed in a shooting spree last December.

Dr. Lou Marciani, director of the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security NCS4) at The University of Southern Mississippi, also participated in the discussion.

“I felt like the Administration was very open to stakeholder feedback on developing model emergency plans,” he said. “I stressed the importance of including annex emergency planning for the total school day. After-school activities affect 11 million boys and girls participating, as well as 336 million people coming onto high school campuses for events.”

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano moderated two of the three panels on the emergency management needs of schools, institutions of higher learning and houses of worship. The interactive discussions with leading experts in their respective fields focused on lessons learned from previous mass shootings and what should be included in the model plans currently being developed by the Obama Administration.

Marciani noted that NCS4 is working with the National Federation of State High School Associations and the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association to address safety and securing issues facing interscholastic athletic programs nationwide.

“We are currently working through the Mississippi High School Activities Association to do three feasibility studies at Oak Grove School District, Hancock County School District and Biloxi School District,” said Marciani. “We are gathering critical emergency management issues from the three districts in preparation for a national focus group to develop risk management training curriculum.”

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