Pacific edition, Tuesday, May 1, 2007

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — In the wake of the April 16 shooting massacre at Virginia Tech, Pacific school officials sent out a message to parents stressing that military schools in Japan, South Korea and Guam are safe havens.

Nancy Bressell, director of Department of Defense Dependents Schools Pacific, said the tragedy in Blacksburg, Va., serves as a reminder “of the need to keep our emergency response and crisis intervention plans up to date.”

“As far as safety and security go, our schools in the Pacific are unique since all of them are located within the physical security envelope of a military installation,” she wrote in the message, noting that the two off-base schools on Guam are to be relocated to military installations.

Bressell added that DODDS also is upgrading school intercoms and security lighting systems. Also, some schools are getting additional security cameras, video recorders and card key locks.

“These new state-of-the-art systems greatly enhance our procedures for emergency lockdown or evacuation of school classrooms,” she said.

Safety First

In a recent weekly newsletter from Bechtel Elementary School on Okinawa, officials said the school routinely follows extensive precautions to ensure safety. Among them:

n Maintaining an emergency response and evacuation plan that is reviewed annually;

n Strictly observing visitors to the schools, monitoring hallways and other campus activities;

n Making referrals to mental health and family advocacy agencies whenever students are observed exhibiting seriously inappropriate behavior, such as talking about suicide, verbalizing threats or fantasizing violent actions;

n Maintaining effective relations with local military police.

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