In the wake of a horrific mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school on Friday, the Vancouver School Board says the emergency procedures at local schools keep students and teachers safe.

Board spokesperson Kurt Heinrich says shootings such as the one that happened at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn, which left 20 children and seven adults dead, are unlikely to happen in Vancouver. However, Heinrich says the school board takes any possibility of an incident seriously, and all schools hold two drills every year to practice responding to a Code Red alert.

“Even if it’s a minor threat that's not related to the school, we’ll take our schools into Code Yellow—locking doors, making sure there’s no possible way any sort of dangerous thing can get into the school,” he said. “If it’s a more direct threat, then we have a Code Red lockdown—locking school classrooms to ensure we can really localize the danger, and to allow the Vancouver Police Department to have time to do what they do best and defuse the threat.”

Heinrich says emergency protocols are always under review. Currently, the board is reassessing its guidelines for using social media in an emergency.

Earlier this year, a Langley school was locked down after reports of a gun spotted on school property. During the incident, students were sending out messages via Twitter and Facebook. A few hours later, the school was cleared, and no weapons were found, but school officials were concerned about the need to balance safety with parents’ need for information.

“What we’re saying to students in that type of situation is to send a text to a parent to let them know you’re OK, but you don’t want to be broadcasting on Twitter what your concerns are because then the whole world will see it,” said Heinrich. “That causes misinformation to get out there and the last thing you want out there is misinformation.”

Vancouver School Board’s advice to teachers in the wake of Friday’s shooting in Connecticut:

  • It is likely that many of your students will have heard news reports, watched television, or been on the internet, and may have seen footage from the incident. Some of this may have been disturbing.
  • Students may wish to discuss the story in class. Therefore, it would help to remind teachers to acknowledge what has happened, but not to dwell on it. Teachers should limit television and internet viewing, as this incident will likely be extensively covered by the media.
  • Administrators may also wish to consider having counsellors check in with any students who may be vulnerable or at risk. This is particularly important for any students who seem to be preoccupied with any aspects of the shootings.
  • Younger students also often have difficulty understanding that events have occurred far away, and so may believe that the event occurred near their school. Therefore, staff can explain to them that your school is not at any risk from these particular shooters, as they live very far away.
  • If there are any inquiries from parents/guardians about what they can do, remind them to limit their childrens’ television and internet viewing. They should also be encouraged to listen to their childrens’ concerns and feeling and to reassure them about their own safety.
  • Our schools and district have put in place many effective safety procedures. Procedures are in place, developed in coordination with the Vancouver Police Department, for immediate response should something like this happen in Vancouver.
  • It’s always a good idea to remind staff to be aware of who is in the building and on school grounds, and that they should immediately alert the office if they are concerned about anyone.

With files from CTV British Columbia's Jina You