HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii Schools were on heightened security today. Even though Hawaii is about as far as can be from the tragedy, it was a reminder to be ready.
Flags were at half staff around the state after the Connecticut shooting. Hawaii is one of only 12 states in the country that hasn't had an active shooter at a school, this despite not having many metal detectors, surveillance cameras or other security features. The district says instead of hardware it focuses on heartware.
"In response to school shootings mainland districts have put in extra metal detectors and surveillance cameras, that's all hardware. The Secret Service, ATF and US Department of Education has strong research showing putting in more heartware is the way to prevent these incidents. Making sure you have schools honor dignity and respect, where teachers model that behavior, where teachers respect one another, where students respect teachers, vice versa and students respect one another," said Mark Behrens, Hawaii Department of Education Safety, Security and Emergency Preparedness Director.
Just in case the schools do practice lockdown drills at least once a year for an intruder on campus. Each school has a site specific plan, but the basics are the same.
"Teachers lock the door, shut off the lights, go away from windows, crouch down against the wall and remain quiet," said Behrens.
Hawaii is the 10th largest school district in the county. Yet is one of the few districts its size without its own police force so it works with the county police departments to be ready.
"We conduct training on school property in regard to active shooters on campus. We do have protocols in place to address an active shooter," said Clayton Kau, Honolulu Police Department Assistant Chief.
Today was the last day for Hawaii public schools before a three week winter break. Still the Honolulu Police Department is aware copycat criminals are always a possibility.
"It is a concern to the department but we want emphasize to the public to be vigilant and if they see anything out of the ordinary call 911," said Assistant Chief Kau.
The district is also studying research that shows at times it might be better for an adult to try and tackle the shooter if they're locked in the same room with them, rather than hiding under a table.
The following is a news release from administrators with the Hawaii State Department of Education:
The Hawaii State Department of Education (DOE) Safety, Security and Emergency Preparedness Branch met Friday morning with Honolulu Police Department officials to review security procedures for the state's public schools.
The meeting with law enforcement was prompted following a shooting at a Connecticut school that killed twenty students and seven adults.
"All of Hawaii's public schools have emergency procedures in place and today our teams revisited those procedures with a heightened awareness," stated Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi. "While this tragedy is incomprehensible, all of our schools have counseling services available for students, parents, and teachers who may need them."
This weekend marks the start of the winter break for Hawaii's public schools.