Local schools on heightened alert following Conn. shooting

SEATTLE -- In response to Friday's horrific shooting in Connecticut, security teams with local school districts are on heightened alert and counselors are reaching out to students and parents.

Friday's tragedy took place thousands of miles away, but it has real consequences for local students, parents and teachers.

"I'm picking my kids up early," said parent Jarman Hauser. "I had to come, I just had to get them. My wife is at home waiting for us to come home so we can just be together."

Both the Tacoma and Seattle school districts have sent letter home to parents with tips on how to deal with this type of tragedy. Teachers and counselors are also preparing to answer kids' questions.

"Monday morning our staff will be on alert again. They'll be providing a safety net, a warm environment for all of our students so that they do feel safe and secure when they go to school," said Lesley Rogers of Seattle Public Schools.

The first thing most schools did on Friday was check security.

"Our school security staff has been out in schools," Rogers said. "They've been paying attention, they've got their ear to the ground."

Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer said in-school officers are also doing their part to help students feel safe.

"Our school resource officers are in the schools," he said. "There are kids that are hearing about what's going on, they're upset, they're coming to our guys and talking to them about it."

School security has come a long way since the Springfield, Ore. shooting in 1998 and the Columbine shooting a year later. Schools now regularly conduct drills and go over safety plans.

There's no word on any threats to local schools, but the districts know that copycat shootings are a risk and say security officers are staying extra vigilant.

"For two reasons: One, to deter anybody who might be on the fence thinking they might do something like this. And two, we want the kids to feel safe," Troyer said.

For now, many parents just want their kids home with them.

"My kids are in elementary school," Hauser said. "This could happen right here in Seattle, it could happen in Queen Anne, it could happen in South Seattle, it could happen in Tacoma -- it hits home."

Seattle Public Schools officials say Friday's tragedy will prompt them to re-examine their own policies and see if there are any lessons they can learn to improve security.