PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Local News

December 14, 2012

Local leaders react to Conn. school shooting news

PORT ARTHUR — The News staff

Local leaders, and the rest of the nation, are trying to come to grips with the deadly shooting rampage that happened at a Connecticut elementary school Friday.

Port Neches-Groves Independent School District Superintendent Rodney Cavness isn’t new to the issue of a school tragedy. Cavness was principal at West Brook High School in Beaumont and saw grief and devastation in March 2006 when a charter bus carrying the girls varsity soccer team to a playoff game crashed on Highway 90, killing two students and severely injuring several others.

The shooting deaths of 27 people, including 20 children in Connecticut, lay heavy on his heart.

“This is unthinkable that a savage like this sick individual would kill his own mother, let alone go into a school and kill innocent babies, literally ruining the lives of more than two dozen families,” Cavness said by phone Friday.

Cavness believes the shooting is related to a much bigger problem and that the shooter may have left clues of his intentions but because of over-the-top political correctness, people failed to report him.

The superintendent said it will take strong leadership to piece the community back together.

“When the investigation is clear, I believe there are people who knew him and professional people who feared this would happen. People might not like me saying that,” he said. “We work extremely hard — parents, teachers and school administrators — to keep our kids safe. Crisis management is very difficult to do because you don’t really know what you’re planning for. We train for everything from blood on the floor to active shooters. The goal is to have a plan, practice the plan, communicate the plan and collaborate with law enforcement when, if we do have a crisis situation, we can get out of the way and let law enforcement take over.”

Mark Porterie, deputy superintendent for the Port Arthur Independent School District, said he was filled with emotion and deeply saddened by the deaths of so many young children Friday.

“They’re so helpless, and for someone to come in and take their lives ...” Porterie trailed off, pausing before finishing the thought. “You can’t even describe it.”

He could not help but think of his own child in such a situation.

“I don’t know what I would do,” he said. “When there’s a child, there’s no negotiating.”

Porterie said he had received some phone calls Friday from concerned parents, asking if their children’s schools had plans in place in case of such a crisis. PAISD does have a crisis management plan in place in the event of an emergency situation, and it includes steps in case an armed person enters the school and holds people hostage.

The first step would be to call the police and order an immediate school lockdown before notifying the superintendent’s office, according to the crisis management plan. The “danger area” would then be isolated by locking all doors and stopping all hall traffic. Any students not in a locked classroom would be evacuated to a designated area, but the hostages, if there are any, would be the responsibility of the police.

The school district has done two evacuation drills this semester, Porterie said, and it was clear from the drills that the police and the school district understood their respective roles.

“When a crisis happens, that’s key,” he said.

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