Districts Putting Together Anti-Terror Plans

May 19, 2003
Posted at: 10:10 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, Ark. -- For Arkansas students, learning how to respond to terrorism may become as common as a fire drill thanks to a new law is requiring schools to develop terrorism preparedness plans.

Students in Jonesboro's Valley View School District are strolling their way to the end of the school year. Come next year, however, reading and writing will not be the only lessons on their plate.

Richard Huggins is the Crisis Management Coordinator for the Valley View district. He says administrators are working on ways to meet the state's mandatory terrorism response imitative.

"If there's evacuations," Huggins said. "How far do you evacuate? Where do you evacuate to? There's just a lot of questions that we don't really know right now, but we're trying to find answers and hopefully by this summer we'll have it in place."

Valley View has had an emergency response plan in place now for five years. The plan entails ways to handle natural disasters and other crises. Most recently, a portion was added to deal with a possible anthrax scare.

"We've been very fortunate here," Huggins said. "We go through our drills, but so far we've been fortunate."

Michael Johnson overseas the crisis plan for the Nettleton School District. In the twelve years he's worked there, the district only had to refer to the plan one time.

"The sewage treatment plant on the other side of the bypass, there was a chemical spill there," Johnson said. "This campus felt it was necessary to evacuate the students."

Nettleton, like Valley View, is also currently upgrading its crisis plan. Johnson said that, for example, if the drinking water were contaminated at Nettleton: "(We would) probably move off the campus and get the kids away from it if we found a source of contamination."

Additionally, the Nettleton district's crisis committee is looking at ways to handle this and other potential hazards.

"We can't really consider ourselves the first line of defense like our armed forces, where every student has to come to school with a gas mask a cannister or something like that," Johnson said.

All Arkansas school districts are required to have their updated crisis plans in place before January 1, 2004.