UNION, Ky. - May 26, 1994.
Nobody who attended or worked at Ryle High School in the Boone County School District at the time will ever forget the date.
That's when Clay Shrout, then 17, killed his mother, father and two sisters at the family's home on Tiburon Drive in the Southampton Estates subdivision outside of Union.
Then, he went to Ryle, where he was a student, and held 23 teenagers hostage at gunpoint for 20 minutes in the math class of Carol Kanabrowski.
Assistant Principal Steve Sorrell eventually talked Shrout into peacefully surrendering, all without a shot being fired.
Shrout was convicted of murder and in 1995 was sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole for 25 years.
Those tense moments were top-of-mind Friday as news circulated that 26 people, 20 of them children between the ages of 5 and 10, were shot to death at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The gunman then took his own life.
"We were very fortunate as a district that that ended in the way it ended from some heroic people that particular day," Boone County Schools Superintendent Randy Poe said. "Everything worked out for everyone concerned."
None of the people directly involved in the incident and still working for the district wanted to be interviewed on Friday.
However, current Ryle High School principal, Matt Turner, spoke for them by saying, "It has laid bare a few emotions and that's something we'll have to be respectful of as well."
Turner said the Connecticut case will be talked about on Monday when students return to class to see if anyone needs help dealing with the tragedy.
"Number one, we're going to make sure we express our sympathies and our regret for what's happened," he said. "We'd also want to reflect a little bit on ourselves here and how we can try to be better people -- how we can try to make sure these things don't happen in our community."
Poe's advice to the parents in the district is to tell their sons and daughters they love them.
"Today is for parents to hug their children, talk with their children and communicate," he said. "We'll look at policies and procedures later and the safety that we're doing."
Keeping everyone safe in a district with 20,000 students and 4,300 staff members in 23 buildings is a big job.
District leaders, principals and each building's site-based council have worked closely with the Boone County Sheriff's Department to develop security plans and emergency response measures.
"They go through a school building and make sure that entry points and so forth are locked, that there's a specific entry point and a sign-in and sign-out procedure," Poe said. "If a tragedy occurs, the first thing you try to do is evacuate the situation and have a central collection point where you can notify the parents."
That's done with an outcall notification system and emails. However, despite regular drills, Poe added that no system is foolproof.
"You try to head off something like this, but in no particular time can you stop a random act of violence like this," he said.
Another program that Poe will make sure is emphasized is PBIS -- Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports.
"Through that we try to work with our students on building behavior, respect and safety," he said. "The best thing we can work on in prevention of this is communication and building relationships so that students are talking and parents are talking."
Communication is at the top of Turner's list at Ryle as well.
"The number one thing we do in terms of school safety is making sure we have clear communications because a lot of times with emergency situations or violent situations, it's simply a process of getting to know the students and knowing what's going on in the community and try to prevent situations," he said. "Obviously, there are some situations that you may not have any control over and we just want to make sure that we're as well prepared as possible in that case."
Ryle security measures include locking all school doors once classes begin and making sure all visitors enter the building through the office. If there are problems, the emergency phone system and emails are used to communicate with parents.
Both Poe and Turner said the events in Connecticut have left them saddened.
"It's just a horrific event," Poe said. "Our hearts and prayers go out to all the families."
Turner said the killing of young children is such a senseless action.
"I can't fathom it right now," he said. "Our hearts go out to all the people there."
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