Terror Crisis Plans In Schools

The Early Show, CBS News Correspondent Tracy Smith talks to Lt. Tim Carney, of Sarasota County Sheriff's Department
CBS/The Early Show
Many have seen security added at airports and office buildings, but what is being done at schools to protect our kids?

Educational institutes for children are still a very safe place, says CBS News Correspondent Tracy Smith, but now they have to work a little harder to keep it that way.

While students seem to relax on a sunny day at Booker High School in Sarasota, Fla., the staff is getting ready for the worst.

"You have your crisis plans in place and you practice it, such as a school lock-down, that's something we practice on a regular basis," says Lt. Tim Carney, of Sarasota County Sheriff's Department.

Sarasota's schools are preparing for terror attacks, but some experts say they're in the minority.

"Overall, unfortunately no, we're not prepared," says Curt Lavarello, Executive Director of the National Association School Resource Officers.

He says a survey of its members yield disturbing results.

"Officers responded by telling us that their schools were not prepared, their crisis plans had not been tested and, more importantly, that a number of schools across the country do not have crisis plans," says Lavarello.

The lack of preparedness led U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige to announce $30 million to be available to school districts for improving and strengthening their emergency response and crisis management plan.

But now schools have to think about areas of vulnerability they never considered before, from the very air students breathe, to the mail schools get to the food students eat.

Half a decade ago, children in school were preparing for an atomic attack from the Soviets. Recently, school safety was all about preventing another Columbine.

Sarasota schools are working hard to close those holes in security by paying attention to food preparers and vendors to keep lunch safe for students. And they are making sure gates seal off the street in front of the school.

"I think that we have tried to build a cocoon, that we've tried to think of the things that we need to protect them," says Booker High School principal Jan Gibbs. "I think they know that."

Currently, a critical incident poster hangs in every classroom at Booker High School. And classes implement a detailed crisis plan. A code yellow means evacuate the campus quickly. Code red indicates a total lock down. The school practices the drills to keep students and the faculty alert.

"Teachers lock the doors, they pull down the shades, they turn out the lights, and that creates an atmosphere that is a little bit scary I think," says Gibbs. "But it gets their attention that this is real, this could be real."

It's a message the students seem to be getting.

"We do take it seriously and it's probably because we do them over and over, and people really see that this could happen," says high school senior Tashima Miller.

Experts say it's a good idea to call your child's school if you have a question about their crisis plan.