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School Safety in Stratford Questioned After Newtown Shooting

Currently there is not a permanent police presence at every Stratford school. But should there be?

As many Stratford parents remain on edge following the unfathomable Newtown school shooting that left six adults -- including Stratford's Vicki Soto -- and 20 children dead, some are calling on increased security at the district's schools.

Currently the only full-time police presence is at the two middle schools, Flood and Wooster, and the two high schools, Stratford and Bunnell, says Superintendent of Schools Irene Cornish.

At the remaining schools, security in the form of a police presence is being provided by different officers at different times, says Cornish.

Some concerned Stratford parents want an officer at every school at all times, but Cornish says the resources are not available to make that happen.

"We have to focus on tightening our securities already in place," Cornish told Patch on Monday.

But some say what's in place now leaves schools unprotected for prolonged periods of time. For instance, on Monday, "Chapel had a police officer only until 9 then gone the rest of the day," wrote Carol Martire-Monte on the Stratford Patch Facebook page.

"I do not feel my children are safe," she continued. "If the town has police officers at the middle schools and high schools then they should be at the elementary schools where the children are so vulnerable."

Traci Totten, a lifelong Stratford resident, said she kept her two elementary school kids home on Monday because she, like her 10-year-old daughter, is afraid.

"She knows what happened and we are trying to console, reassure and support her," Totten said. "However, she is not only afraid for herself but for her little brother. She asked me, 'How can I go to school, I can't check on him during the day? I need to be able to make sure he is OK in his class. Those kids were his age. That could have been his class.'"

Totten said she couldn't with full honesty tell her daughter that she'd be safe at school. And driving by her daughter's school later in the day and not seeing any visible measures of heightened security only added to her anxiety, she said.

Cornish hopes to allay some parental worry at an informational meeting this morning at Stratford Academy-Johnson House. Scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. and run to 10:30 a.m., the meeting will be held in the school's auditorium and focus on security measures specifically at the school's elementary schools. All are welcome to attend.

"It'll be an honest meeting," Cornish said. "I'll try the best I can to answer questions."

Mayor John A. Harkins and Police Chief Patrick Ridenhour will also be present to answer questions and hear concerns.

After nine years as superintendent, Cornish will retire at the end of December. As someone who has seen thousands of kids go through the Stratford school system, she said it's been extremely difficult for her personally these past few days.

"My heart breaks for the parents and those poor little defenseless kids -- I'm still trying to grapple," Cornish said. "Every superintendent is wondering, What if it were us? It's been extremely sad."

Cornish said she will do her best to ensure schools are the safest place for kids before she departs in the coming weeks.

A PDF titled, Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers, provided by the school board, is included in the photo gallery above.

Ron Moreau December 18, 2012 at 04:12 PM
Another alternative. http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/12/18/stop-school-shootings-by-letting-teachers-fire-back-say-texas-officials/
charlie December 18, 2012 at 04:27 PM
This was suggested after the VA Tech shootings, but nothing ever happened.
charlie December 18, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Many teachers would not want to be armed. I have mixed feelings about this, but I believe it would deter some people, except for the truly psychotic who don't care what happens. In that case, it may limit casualties.
David Terlik December 18, 2012 at 04:53 PM
that's a bad idea...teaching can be very stressful...we do not need to give guns to people who number one job is to teach. Please leave the guns to those who have been trained years to know HOW and WHEN use them. Also, do you really want little Jimmy to find a gun that his teacher accidentally forgot to lock up one day? Leave the guns out of the schools unless its a cop carryiving it!!!!
Patricia Clark Sperling December 18, 2012 at 05:05 PM
Here’s an idea: train administrators, teachers and custodians of each school in the use of taser guns and also have silent alarm buttons which, when pushed, go directly to the police department. Taser guns can be placed in the main office, as well as areas only teachers, administrators and custodians are privy to throughout the building. Should an “event” occur where it’s necessary to do something to protect our children, they would have something which could aid in getting the situation under control. Since it’s obvious we cannot have a resource officer at each/every school in Stratford and money for the important things (other than lining their pockets) is always an issue, this could be a viable idea.
Jason Bagley (Editor) December 18, 2012 at 05:26 PM
A lot of good info in the Stratford Star's report of this morning's meeting: http://www.stratfordstar.com/3214/school-security-under-scrutiny-parents-demand-answers/?fb_source=pubv1
karen December 18, 2012 at 05:38 PM
I, too, worry about safety in schools. Realistically, however, even an armed officer in the Sandy Hook school could not have stopped the lunatic who got in. Unless an officer was standing at the door watching as that shooter was walking up to the school, nothing could have been done. Perhaps an officer is at the front of the school and somene gets in through a back entrance. I do, however, think it is a wonderful idea to have officers park at schools t write reports and such.
Traci December 18, 2012 at 06:01 PM
I was at the meeting today and can say that I dont feel any preventative actions that are being taken in our town are good enough right now. Shelton, Milford- they have cops at ALL schools. Cops are directing traffic in area's and like the gentlemen above said, while potholes are being fixed- yet we cannot place some police this week at our schools to protect our kids? Every second counts here. Speculative it is, but if there was a minute that went by at Sandy Hook where a cop had paused the shooter or delayed him ( a trained officer, not teacher or administrator) how many more live would have been saved? Why are waiting on any of this? Tell me one thing about having a cop at each school that wouldnt make sense. That wouldnt help, even for a few seconds. I think as parents we have to rally together at each school and also to demand this protection from the PD. We are going on winter break next week. We will have a week + to work on this more - but we need something NOW. Right now I feel the towns measures are inexusable. Our neighbors in other towns are doing much more as I write this. And our neighbors in Newtown are going through this horrifc tragedy and we cannot do anything but stand by.
David Terlik December 18, 2012 at 06:11 PM
It could have stopped it completely had he responded to the broken glass when he entered the school or at least got to the gunman sooner and lowered the number of people killed. Those two reasons are reason enough for me....
Mike December 18, 2012 at 06:45 PM
All the classroom doors should have magnetic locks, that lock as soon as the lockdown alarm is sounded. There should be panic buttons around the school. like fire alarms, that lock the school down. Because mass shootings like this only happen in gun free zones where no one can shoot back, the teachers should be armed.
charlie December 18, 2012 at 07:16 PM
Traci - I agree with you but I think the objection will be that the town cannot place a cop at every school. So then you either need to have security guards or trained personnel (administrators) etc. Money and staffing will always be an issue even though safety should be the primary consideration.
David Terlik December 18, 2012 at 07:45 PM
how many times do you drive past a road construction site and see three cop cars parked at each one...at all hours? They need to re-allocate them better....
Traci December 18, 2012 at 09:30 PM
I understand and do agree about trained personell. Again- thats the long term solutions(s)- I am asking for this week, as we are still in a state of shock, to have that security beefed up. If it made someone think twice about doing something, then the jobs are being done.
charlie December 18, 2012 at 10:03 PM
You have a right to be concerned about copycats right now, so they should have police in or near each school.
charlie December 18, 2012 at 10:05 PM
Good suggestions.
Brandee LaCava December 19, 2012 at 03:19 AM
I pick up children at Lordship and the only day I saw a cop on the grounds was the day of the shooting, so please leave "Lordship" out of it. We are a broke family in these times as well as many others. I do have to say I don't know if Lordship elementary has a camera outside, I've never looked, but you do have to be buzzed in by an air phone system. I have NEVER been asked once upon them buzzing me in what I'm there for. I have dropped of instruments, lunches, projects, and never asked once why I'm there. This concerns me as my daughter will be starting there next year. Maybe our schools all need bullet glass doors in place as well...
Brandee LaCava December 19, 2012 at 03:21 AM
@ David T, I see two to three police at construction sights, a lot of times talking to the workers or on their cell phones....
Chris Stevens December 20, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Those cops working at construction sites are being paid by those construction companies, not the town, the town does make money for every hour the cops do work those private jobs though, I believe the town pulls in a few hundred thousand a year, maybe that money could be used to hire more officers for the schools.....what about that money the mayor gave those other two cops? You know the ones who got arrested? What was it like 500k or something? We sure could have used that money now..........
Tom December 20, 2012 at 10:24 PM
Was there some sort of physical altercation in the hallway of Flood School today?
Tom December 21, 2012 at 07:22 PM
Just what I thought: no answer.
Tom December 21, 2012 at 07:24 PM
We could begin by getting the dangerous students out of the buildings.
Patricia Clark Sperling December 21, 2012 at 07:42 PM
At a meeting at Johnson House, I was upset to learn that parents are giving the Principal, Asst. Principal and Secretary as well as the teachers a hard time because of new procedures that have been implemented. Every visitor must be buzzed in. They are asked their name and what their purpose at the school is. They then must go directly to the office to sign in and obtain a visitor pass. Parents are upset by this? Really?????? There have also been parents in the pick-up line after school. Parents are upset that they cannot park their cars, get out and walk over to get their child, and that they must stay in line. Really, again? Parents are upset by this???? We were told by the Mayor’s office that this ball will not be dropped. Changes will be made. The DPW is looking at and evaluating changes that need to be made to our schools in order to ensure our children's safety. It sounded like money won't be an issue when it comes to the safety of our children. I certainly hope he has the Town Council and other Stratford politicos on board with this. So, Town Council – heed this warning: Our children are our future, they are defenseless and we all – whether we have children or not – are obligated to ensure their protection. Many of us will continue to live in our little boxes rather than do what we can to ensure tragedies like SHES doesn’t happen again. No idea is crazy – think outside the box, toss ideas out – perhaps one might just stick!
Tom December 21, 2012 at 08:00 PM
Ok, Then maybe you should ask that the real issues of school safety be brought up. Issues like dangerous students that CAN'T be removed from our schools because of federal legislation. You know, that sirt of stuff.
Tom December 21, 2012 at 08:05 PM
Here we go with this approach again-- go after the cop at the construction site.. Let's avoid the PC approach to addressing a problem with school safety, because that may hurt people's feelings. How about we bring some light to the fact that dangerous students are being mainstreamed into our schools.
Patricia Clark Sperling December 21, 2012 at 08:07 PM
Just my opinion - dangerous students exist because parents have become laxed in discipline and overseeing their morals and values. All of the civil rights "do-gooders" and "special interest" groups make it very difficult for any sort of school discipline. Absent Parents = Irresponsible Children. Maybe you can start by holding parents responsible and accountable for their children's actions? Just a thought.
Tom December 21, 2012 at 08:16 PM
Did anyone happen to bring up IDEA and how hard it is to remove dangerous students from the student population?
Tom December 22, 2012 at 03:49 AM
We start by getting them out of our schools and placed properly. We stop trying to mainstream violent students. We also start by documenting violent episodes as they happen and not hiding them under the school carpet. We start by reporting the real numbers of assaults, thefts, threats, and other crimes as they happen and put aside politics in the schools.
Mary Lou Santora December 22, 2012 at 07:49 PM
I wonder if a teacher or 2 in each school would like to be made auxiliary police officers.
charlie December 22, 2012 at 08:13 PM
I believe this is done in Texas and has been re-introduced in AZ after failing shortly after the Giffords shooting last year.
OpportunistWatch January 18, 2013 at 03:38 PM
I have had children in Stratford schools for over a decade and can tell you that WE DO NOT NEED MORE SECURITY. Giving millions to a corrupt town government like Stratford that can't handle current spending is like telling a heroin user to cut back. Its just not that easy. We can't even buy a fire truck without corruption and scheming of tax dollars. i.e. Best

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