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Bill Capo / Eyewitness News
Email: bcapo@wwltv.com | Twitter: @billcapo

NEW ORLEANS -- Following the Sandy Hook tragedy, school systems across the country, including those in New Orleans, tightened security and took extra steps to reassure parents and students that they are doing everything possible to protect those in classrooms.

In Jefferson Parish they went so far as to set up a hotline to answer questions for anxious parents and staffers.

As news of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shootings flashed across the country on Friday, Jefferson Parish School System Superintendent James Meza felt the horror.

'Just a deep sadness, a deep sadness to try to understand what took place in that school,' Meza said. 'Of course I immediately moved to a role of how would that impact my role as superintendent, what could we do to prevent such a tragedy.'

Meza immediately acted to increase security on the 80 campuses in Jefferson Parish, ordering that all doors and gates be checked and locked, security procedures and emergency response plans reviewed, and that schools use only one entrance.

'Single entry allows you to channel all the population, all the visitors through one entryway. It's very difficult to do in some schools, so we're taking extra steps, working with the sheriff's office,' Meza said.

But Meza knew parents and some staffers would be frightened, and that many would be wondering what to tell their children.

So social workers and psychologists manned a hotline Monday to help provide answers and calm concerns.

'We have to be very cautious about what we tell children, particularly as it relates to the age of the child. Not all children may need to know about this trauma, because they haven't developed a means of coping with such high anxiety situations,' Meza said.

Among the tips mailed to parents: reassure children that they are safe and such incidents rare, stick to a normal routine, and spend extra time with them, and for parents to watch their own stress levels.

But school leaders are studying the lessons of Sandy Hook.

'This will help Jefferson Parish do a better job of preventing such an incident in the future,' Meza said.

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