Newtown shooting will influence Livingston Parish safety procedures

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POSTED: Friday, December 14, 2012 - 9:00pm

UPDATED: Friday, December 14, 2012 - 9:04pm

The Livingston Parish School District and Sheriff Jason Ard will study the Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting to devise ways to better protect local students.

The school district and the sheriff's office began coordinating emergency response plans after the Columbine shooting in 1999.

While the preparation is important, Ard said Friday, "we hope that we never have to use that."

The Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office has a detailed set of plans to react to an emergency that takes place inside a school. Ard refused to discuss the exact details of the plans, but said they cover a wide range of scenarios. Some involve every school in the district, while others take place at just one location. Deputies train for each of them, and every school is included during the course of the year.

"This is tragic," Ard said of the Newtown shooting. "It's just something that you try to be prepared for and sometimes it's very difficult to prepare for something of that magnitude.

"They even responded very quickly, and may have possibly even had law enforcement on campus."

Ard said communication is one of the most important parts of a response plan, and he credits the school district for helping preparing its employees.

"The teachers are very well educated," he said. "They know to be aware of their surroundings and things of that nature."

Ard said a scenario like the Connecticut shooting is tough for him personally, because he has two school-aged children. But he tries not to let that stop him from doing his job.

"As a parent, I mean, it's something that you sometimes may think about," Ard said. "Law enforcement officers, we often think about this kind of tragedy happening. To see it actually happen, it's just, our hearts go out to them."

Ard reviews Livingston Parish's response plans every year. And while the video coming out of Newtown is difficult to watch, he will study it, as he does with every school shooting.

"It's a very tragic event, this incident, but it's something that we also take as a learning (experience), and we'll look through it and see some things that may have happened there that we may need to do different here."

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