South Okanagan educators described the shooting Friday morning at a Connecticut elementary school as a senseless tragedy, which will impact all involved for the rest of their lives.
The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Conn., left at least 20 children and six adults dead. The shooter, believed to be the son of a female teacher at the school, also turned the gun on himself at the scene.
"It's so tragic, such a violation at an elementary school. We live right by Wiltse school and we see all these young people and families," said Bruce Johnson, vice chair of the Okanagan Skaha School District board.
While there are fewer incidents involving firearms in Canada than the U.S., the district is still prepared. It recently adopted a protocol agreement with the RCMP, Ministry of Children and Family Development and other organizations to bring together resources to treat any threat or perceived threat to any school or child, he said.
Leslea Pryde, president of the Okanagan Skaha Teacher's Union and an elementary school teacher, said news of the shooting came as an absolute shock.
"I immediately thought about all the training here in the district, which includes lock downs and drills with the kids, and it brings back the fear of what these people went through. Your heart just goes out to the families and the surviving kids and teachers all over the country and how they feel," she said.
"It must be going through their minds right now that something could happen at any time."
In addition to the protocol agreement and lock down training, the district has crisis teams ready to be put in place right away. Pryde did not anticipate those teams being put into place today, but believes students at higher levels will be curious and want to talk about the incident with counselors..
Jim Insley, assistant superintendent of Okanagan Similkameen School District 53 in Oliver, said it had been a difficult day for the district.
"We are shocked and dismayed by this atrocious act," he said. "We have lock down and entry procedures, and the schools all practice skills to be prepared for an emergency situation, but how do you stop a monster like that."
He hopes the lesson to be learned is that 'all society has to look at this', even in Canada, where there are some gun laws, and think, could this person have been identified earlier in life.
"We need to look at our own mental health system and think is enough being done," he said. "For now there are a lot of prayers being said that it never happens in our schools."
"Our hearts go out to those families."
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