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Active-shooter drills advised for WV schools

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LAWRENCE MESSINA, Associated Press

CHARLESTON, WV (AP) — Every West Virginia school should practice responding to a gunman's attack at least annually as part of a plan to guard against violence, the top prosecutor for the state's southern federal court district said Tuesday.

Besides active-shooter drills, U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin outlined other steps such as shatter-resistant windows, classroom doors that lock quickly and anti-bullying programs during the two-day KidStrong Conference arranged by the state Department of Education.

The recommendations come from a new report drawn from a summit on school safety held in February. The subject has gotten a closer look following the December massacre of 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

"We owe it to our children and our educators to do everything in our power to keep our schools safe. Anything less is unacceptable," Goodwin said in a statement following his presentation.

The 10-item critical list detailed in the report also includes a single and locked entry point for each school, an emergency alarm system that can warn the entire campus as well as first responders and a system for informing parents and other schools quickly. A Prevention Resource Officer Corps to provide active and retired law enforcement and veterans to schools and a statewide program for identifying and reaching out to potentially violent students are also among the recommendations.

State school officials have been pursuing such measures. Thirty-two of West Virginia's 55 county school systems have Prevention Resource Officers at more than 60 middle and high schools through a U.S. Justice Department program, according to state figures. These officers spend at least 35 hours each week at their school and also provide training.

Last week, the state School Building Authority approved new building standards that include shatter-resistant glass, separate visitor entrance and waiting areas, and offices that allow administrators a direct view of a school's parking lot. Other features for new schools include doors that can be remotely closed and locked to separate the main entrance from such common areas as a cafeteria, and common areas from classrooms.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press