Local PTA groups offer help after Conn. shooting

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ATLANTA - The National Parent Teacher Association is responding in the aftermath of the Connecticut shooting.

In such an emotional time, they're providing support for parents and children and schools to help people cope with school violence.

Channel 2's Sophia Choi spoke with Georgia's PTA president about what resources are available.

She said every Georgia school has a plan of action in case of an emergency, but Georgia PTA President Donna Kosicki said parents also have to do their part.

"I can't even fathom what those families in Connecticut are going through," she said.

Kosicki said since the Sept. 11 tragedy, the Homeland Security Act ensures that superintendents and principals have a plan in place in case of an emergency. Each district has its own unique plan.

For example, at Sequoia Middle School in Clayton County, that includes a restricted entry door, but every plan includes parent participation.

"What parents should be doing is ensuring that the contact information they have on file for their children is correct and accurate," Kosicki said.

That way parents can be notified immediately should something like this happens.

There's also a plan on what to do after a tragedy like this.

"If a situation like that ever arises in any of our schools, there are counselors in schools that are put into place. Schools do bring in experts to talk to parents, to talk to students, to provide guidance and how they are to help their children deal with it.

"And what they're dealing with these days is many times tougher for adults to process, much less children.

"When you look at the big offense that happened a generation ago in school, you're talking about chewing gum in class, speaking before holding your hand up," Kosicki said.

"You look these offenses today, things that our kids deal with and what we as parents have to help our children deal with. It's so different, seems like worlds apart," Kosicki said.

She said she's even having a hard time explaining what happened in Connecticut, because she herself can't understand it.

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Security stepped up across Atlanta metro schools

In light of Friday's shooting, school districts across the Atlanta metro put their school systems on heightened alert.

Channel 2's Mark Winne was with Clayton County school officials as they gave him a rare look into security measures they put in place because of the Connecticut shooting.

"My first reaction was, 'I got to be sure that we are safe,'" Clayton County Interim Superintendent Luvenia Jackson said.

A school official told Winne an impromptu meeting of Clayton County school officials was held to come up with a game plan for security at basketball games, a big football game and other extracurricular activities in the wake of Friday's mass shooting.

"We want to show that we're concerned about what happened in Connecticut but also continue with our daily practices," said manager of safety and security Raynard Walker.

Deputies showed Winne at Clayton County's Sequoyah Middle School how a restricted entry door system worked, making visitors contact someone in the front office before they are allowed in.

"We are trained to respond to what we call active shooters. We arrive on scenes and there are shots being fired, we will not stop until we actually have engaged the threat and make sure that the threat is eliminated," Lt. Desmond Coleman with the Clayton County Sheriff's Office said.

"Parents should feel really safe here," School Resource Officer India Smith said.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with them this evening as we have our events. We will have a moment of silence for the families and the people there in Connecticut," Jackson said.

Clayton County Sheriff Kem Kimbrough said SROs nationwide are not the norm in elementary schools but he thinks the incident in Connecticut ought to force a re-examination of that.

He says he would like to see more SROs in Clayton County and elsewhere and more spending on school security in general, even in tough budget times.

Gwinnett County Police Department officials said they will be increasing police patrols in and around the schools in that county.

They said officers will be assigned to every school within the Gwinnett County police jurisdiction and the patrols will last for the next several days.

Even though Connecticut is hundreds of miles from Atlanta, when something like Friday's mass shooting happens, police are always going be concerned about copycats.

Atlanta Public Schools officials told Channel 2's Tom Regan their security personnel consulted with police after the shootings and decided to reassign resources and hopefully ease anxiety of parents.

For many parents picking up their children after school, the Connecticut school shooting tragedy was on their hearts and minds.

"Obviously, you want your children to be safe. An issue like that, you can't control. The school didn't know. It's scary," parent Laura Inman said.

"I really think it's sad when things like this happen in a school environment. People send their kids to school and they think it's going to be safe. It's just very sad," parent Albert Sye said.

While Regan was interviewing parents, a patrol car pulled up to the elementary school.

"Our security is in touch with local officials to make sure our schools are safe. Our internal security people have received communication from our chief security officer to make sure those schools are safe," Atlanta Public Schools Spokesman Steve Alford said.

Parents, stunned and sadden by what happened in Connecticut, told Regan they appreciated a strong security presence response.

"I think it makes sense. I think it has a psychological effect on everyone else; it probably makes the parents and kids feel a little more safe," parent Tina Smith said.

A number of parents told Regan they were so upset by the shooting they came early to pick up their kids.