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Stratford Parent: 'We Need an Immediate Response to Ensure the Safety of Our Kids'

Mother of two elementary students Traci Totten is unhappy with school security measures in the wake of the Newtown school shooting that killed 20 children and six adults on Friday.

The following is in part a response to a public forum held this morning by Supt. Irene Cornish to address school safety.

By Traci Totten

I was actually disheartened by the actions and responses taken by officials.

My kids are back in school today as I know I cannot keep them home all week without instilling my fears into them. But I walked them into school today and could have easily bypassed the office and went straight to either classroom.

Yes, they know me, but I am hearing from co-workers and friends in surrounding towns, the elementary schools there are sending out updates, letting parents know the police are on-site at the schools, canceling outdoor recess.

We know nothing in Stratford. I have no idea about recess being canceled. There are no police at any elementary school today -- high schools and middle schools, yes, so why not elementary? This happened in Smalltown USA at a random elementary school! I get that the cost must be factored in but for one week before they are on Christmas break, they cannot have at least one cop at each school? I know that things could happen with cops there.

I get that they are placing things in such a way that a larger plan is in place. However, we need an immediate response to ensure the safety of our kids.

I work at an Aerospace and Defense company. I am located in an office building in Trumbull. You need a badge to enter the building, or you need to call the office you are going to visit to be buzzed in. There are cameras at each entrance. In my office, specifically, you cannot come in the back part. There is protocol in place to protect the information we house here.

Our kids are so much precious then the items we at workplaces protect yet the measures there seem to be more effective and proactive.  I feel that the district is waiting to be responsive at this point, and not proactive.

One woman at the meeting asked, "What's it going to take" to get cops at every school NOW. The answers were so vague -- I left feeling like nothing was accomplished. This doesn't seem to be priority. I respect that it takes an effort to get officials together. I respect that they need a concrete response to be confident in what they tell us they are doing is actually happening.

Bottom line is: police need to be at our elementary schools this week, all week. No one is going to complain. The kids will not be afraid -- the ones old enough to know what is happening will be comforted. The ones too young look at police as protectors; so there is no harm or fear instilling to worry about.

I am confident I speak for many in saying the meeting this morning was not effective and tomorrow I will not feel any safer sending my kids in then I did today.

Jason Bagley (Editor) December 18, 2012 at 08:06 PM
Comment left on the Stratford Patch Facebook page: "I appreciate why parents feel concerned. Of course we do! However, unless authorities have said there is a raised threat level at the schools this week, why should this week be different that three or four weeks ago, when no one was demanding more security? Again, I appreciate we are so keyed up and anxious over this, but increased security measures are not economically feasible at this time, nor would they likely stop someone like Mr. Lanza. I suggest we revisit the conversation after the holidays when everyone has had the chance to take a moment to stop being exposed to the media and rethink things." http://www.facebook.com/StratfordPatch
ln123 December 18, 2012 at 08:09 PM
If parents have taught their children properly that the Police are the Good Guys and there to help then they would look at their presence as a comfort.
Mike Reynolds December 18, 2012 at 08:12 PM
Ms. Masters, can you explain what you mean by assault weapons?
Traci December 18, 2012 at 08:12 PM
I am the author of this letter. I think that we need to face the fact that the times are changing. We can say that the police do not belong in the schools. They shouldn't- but in order to prevent this from ever happening again, we need to take action. Politics and budget are part of everything but the aftermath of an incident like this is so much more. We owe it to our kids and those who lost thier lives to make sure they did not suffer this in vain. This cannot be forgotten. We cannot become complacent. Maybe at all times, we don't need police at the schools. I do beleive that the long term solutions will be determined and put in to place effectively. I am talking about right now. This week; today. I am checking my texts, emails, newsites- praying that I do not see something come up. I have friends and family that are educators; the face of VIcki Soto could have been one of them. I just think we can talk and talk about how we should do this and shouldn't do this- but things are too variable at this time. Who on this earth could have ever expected this happen to Sandy Hook? I must say that our school is excellent and I appreciate the staff, teachers and administrators there. My letter was in no way against how they are handling this- but as a town, if you look around, there is more we can do. However, without the help from the town what can the schools do?
Robert Chambers December 18, 2012 at 10:11 PM
Yes! People are reacting on emotion and not rational thought. Sure there are things to be done, but let them be the right things not just "something" right or wrong just for show.
Melissa December 18, 2012 at 10:26 PM
Traci, I agree. I think it should be required that all schools have 2 police officers or armed security guards. Most high schools & some middle schools have them. Why not elementary? I strongly feel if there was an armed guard of some sort this could have been avoided. I have a middle schooler, a preschooler (with a disability) & another on the way so I may be more emotional than others. Something needs to be done to prevent this from happening again & gun control unfortunately isn't going to take all the weapons off the streets.
Fran Esposito December 18, 2012 at 10:53 PM
I agree. I have two grown children, but one step son in an elementary school in Stratford. If this had happened when my kids were younger, I would be a wreck. Maybe a letter or something to the mayor or a forum for parents to voice should be done so that they will listen. I cannot believe there is no security at any of the elementary schools, where in fact, it was an elementary school in Newtown that this awful tragedy happened. All of the schools including all of the elementary schools have to have security present.
Gary Totten December 19, 2012 at 12:25 AM
We should hire armed teachers - like the ones in Israel - with mandatory annual psych evaluations and certifications on a shooting range. Firefighters can't stop fires and the police cannot stop the crimes - they can only respond after the incident has occurred (unless you have a time machine, you can't be there before it happens). No one can prevent crazy people from acting out, especially if there are no warning signs prior to the episodic break. Since we pay athletes millions of dollars per year without complaining - how about giving teachers weapons training and more pay to protect our most precious assets, our children.
Joe Paul December 19, 2012 at 05:33 AM
After the recent tragedy in Newtown I understand why parents have expressed concern over the level of safety within the schools of Stratford. I am sure that our Mayor, Superintendent, teachers and administrators are equally concerned as well. The issue of security will have to be addressed from both a short term and long term perspective. In the mean time it is important that we maintain the best possible communication with parents and all involved stakeholders. Perhaps we can start with another town hall meeting to update the parents.
Amelia December 19, 2012 at 08:13 AM
Terry Masters, your comment that police do not belong in schools makes me regret voting for you. I had a child pass this year and I can tell you nothing is more precious than children. People get trampled to death on Black Friday to buy a cheap laptop, people get shot over road rage, clearly violence is becoming mainstream. We are being told there is no budget to protect our children meanwhile 9 police officers are doing seatbelt checks on Main Street. Yes I would love to live in a world in which police wouldn't have to patrol the halls but our reality has changed since 1999.
ln123 December 19, 2012 at 12:45 PM
The Monster who committed this heinous act in Newtown knew there was no security in the elementary school that is why he chose it...To anyone that is naive enough to think that a marked, armed, and Kevlar-vested Police Officer outside a school wouldn't be a deterrent is delusional....Why do you think they have armed guards at banks?
Ron Moreau December 19, 2012 at 01:42 PM
Mr. Totten, I wonder how many administrators, in that Newtown school, aleady have a 'permit to carry' but aren't allowed to in school? The shooter could have been stopped when he entered the building.
Ros December 19, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Terry I disagree with most of yourpost. Maybe in the past there was no need for Police in schools but times and culture has changed. We do not have more gun deaths per capita than any place on earth. We can prevent or forestall actions of a deranged person by placing a armed police officer and putting in place drills for such scenerios. What is impossable is preventing criminals from obtaining weapons of mass destruction. That is proven by states that have the most strict gun laws are the ones with the nmost gun deaths and gun violence. 99% of the 300 million guns in this country are semi automatic (assualt weapons) That is more guns than people what plan would you propose?
Robert Chambers December 19, 2012 at 02:16 PM
There IS security at the elementary schools, don't think that the BOE has nothing in place. Is it perfect? arguably no, but nothing is. Are there places where things can be improved? absolutely. When the initial sting of the tragedy subsides and people can come together from all sides and have some meaningful exchange and come up with what is best for our kids.
Robert Chambers December 19, 2012 at 02:18 PM
Having someone on site ready and able to provide some resistance to the invader would certainly have helped. We will never know because the "gun free" zones set up by the CT legislature means that unless there's an on-duty police officer on site this isn't even an entertainable option.
Traci December 19, 2012 at 02:28 PM
I am assuming you do not have a child in primary school at this time? This is not about gun control. That is a related and obviously a debatable topic; this is about measures being taken at this very moment by this town to protect our kids while they make thier long term plan. We as a nation have to face that times are not the same as they were in 1998 (when I graduated). There does need to be security at each school. There are more measures that need to be taken. This is our reality. I didnt have cops in school when I was a kid (Franklin)- but my reality as a child is far different from this world my kids are growing up in.
susan chantlos December 19, 2012 at 03:12 PM
We go through metal detectors before we get on a plane or go into a federal courthouse. Metal detectors reduce the threat of knives and guns. Its sad that these measures need to be in place, but the reality is that they do. Locking the doors to a school and needed to be "buzzed in" was an intriguing idea 10 yers ago, but anyone with kids in school knows that anyone can get buzzed in. The school office is not directly inside the "buzzed" door. Take Flood Middle School for example. Its quite a ways from the exterior door (if you can actually find the office, through the lobby, down the hall and around the corner). What we started 10 years ago never progressed to the needs of the actual world today. There are no easy answers here.
susan chantlos December 19, 2012 at 03:28 PM
I think a great start would be STOPPING people who don't belong in the school BEFORE they get into it. Once buzzed in, they can go anywhere. Why allow access to the school before we know if they should be there?
Robert Chambers December 19, 2012 at 03:31 PM
You are right, and if you look at places like corporate headquarters where you need a swipe card to go from one place to another you will see where some improvements are made. If your entire security relies on one door then it's quite easy to see why this would fail. You don't want to turn the schools into mini prisons, but on the other hand you don't want to make it so easy to have free run of a place once you get past the one line of defense.
mec1140 December 19, 2012 at 04:34 PM
This week IS different than three weeks ago. Three weeks ago, no one had gone into an elementary school and massacred the inhabitants...first graders, their teachers and administrators. For now, until a secure plan is put into place, one or two police officers placed at each school, even parked in the lot while they do paperwork or what have you is a deterrent. Beyond gleaning these pages, I have purposely not tuned into any media. You don't need to...this isn't going away..this week, next week or after the holidays. We now need to be proactive, not reactive.
Traci December 19, 2012 at 05:02 PM
@mec1140 I 100% agree with you. We arent asking to be appeased with "something" We are acting on emotion- of course we are. It's great to have the attitude of " lets move on and try to be normal" but you know what? The world is NOT the same place it was 5-10-20 years ago. I went to Platt- we had no SRO in our school. Now they have a cop there I believe. The thing that sucks to be honest is as I complain and type these comments- what is being done? I am checking in on the news sites multiple times per hour still to make sure there is no new breaking news. I truly cannot concentrate on my work until I know my kids are home from school. This town is being 100% reactive and the superintendent at the meeting clearly had this emotion about her. Generic answers, long term ideas- all fabulous. There is not time to "revisit" anything. My children as all children are worth more then that- the teachers and staff as well!
Terry Masters December 19, 2012 at 08:46 PM
Amelia, I am so sorry for your loss; please accept my sympathies. You are right, violence is endemic. It doesn’t make sense to me to add more guns to the mixture. Putting police in schools has not increased the safety of the kids in any measurable way. New York has had cops in schools for years. The results: kids are being arrested for acting like kids. The best way to protect our families and our society is to take these weapons of mass destruction off the store shelves and out of our lives.
snorkel December 19, 2012 at 09:57 PM
The need to replace the damn glass used in these schools around the front entrance. The elementary school my kids go to has the same security system as Sandy Hook, and the front door and office is surround by large areas of regular old glass. If they want glass they need to replace it all with high density plexi glass or some other material that won't shatter when hit with anything including projectiles. Anyone that really wanted to get in could, they also need to put up car barriers like they have in the front of stores, just something as simply as steel reinforced pillars or even round ball shaped concrete. There is so much they could do to make the schools safer.
snorkel December 19, 2012 at 10:05 PM
+1 A guard armed with a bb gun as a deterrent would have stopped this freak because of his issues, as soon as the coward realized there was someone there who had the "potential" to fight back he probably would have offed himself in the car. he chose the elementary because they are filled with small kids and women. Why didn't he go to a high school or middle school? because the kids there are bigger and the teachers are more likely to be men. We need to address the physical security issues first because it's not just home grown nut cases that could do something like this, and I am really surprised foreign terrorists have not already tried this, no doubt after the world wide attention this is getting they are getting ideas.
snorkel December 19, 2012 at 10:14 PM
Do you really believe he couldn't have done this with the pistols he had? He didn't even use a "Assault" weapon, Assault weapons have a fully automatic or burst mode and other features. He could have done this easily with just the pistols. He used a semi automatic rifle it was not a military "Assault" weapon. Even if he had 10 round magazines he would have done just as much damage. People you need to get with it on the whole "Assault" weapon thing. We don't need 30 round magazines for center fire rifles, I will agree to that, but saying banning semi automatic rifles would have stopped him is absurd. What would have stopped him is better physical security as the school which would have included getting rid of the standard glass around the door, what good is a security system tha can be bypassed with a hammer or baseball bat or a projectile?
Ron Moreau December 19, 2012 at 11:17 PM
Robert,"...this isn't even an entertainable option." I believe it is an entertainable option. I don't think our elected leaders considered a scenario like the one that developed in Newtown. Perhaps the legislature should revisit that decision. A responsible adult with a gun permit could be the first line of defense. Every second counts when forced to deal with this type of situation.
Matt December 20, 2012 at 12:59 AM
As a parent, educator, former resident and former teacher in Newtown I can very clearly understand and empathsize with the wide range of feelings and varied responses of the commenters to this article and thousands of others related to this horrific event. However, it doesn't help anyone, especially our children to be beating up our school and municpal leaders because someone's thoughts and ideas are not acted upon immediately. Everyone from parents to teachers and administrators, to community leaders, police and citizens without children in schools are on heightened alert and will no doubt be watching for anything that looks out of the ordinary for a,long time to come. Continue to communicate your beliefs and suggestions in a respectful manner, but attacking those in charge serves no purpose and will distract those who need to make decisions and changes from making prudent decisions and effective change.
Traci December 20, 2012 at 01:31 AM
I don't think there's any attacking going on . I know for a fact measures being taken in the towns next to ours immediately ( Monday ) after this are not long term fixes by any means . Seeing and hearing the town officials first hand really concerned me . There was a cop at school today for some time which I am happy to report - I understand every parent , educator and resident has thier own opinion but when your child is the same age as the ones killed a few towns over you need answers and frankly dont have time politics and generic responses . Trumbull shelton Milford - all great examples .
Matt December 20, 2012 at 03:22 AM
Very well stated.
Tom December 20, 2012 at 10:27 PM
The answer to this problem may involve some less-than-PC asnwers. I believe it is time that we review IDEA legislation and exactly what it requires of our schools, our teachers, and our students.

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