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Board of Education, Parents Talk 2013-14 Security Vision

The Board voted to request additional police presence for Newtown's elementary schools at a Thursday night budget meeting.

 

The future of security in Newtown schools is beginning to take shape.

At Thursday night's meeting, the Newtown Board of Education voted to approve a request to the Police Department for armed SROs (school resource officers) for each of the town's elementary schools.

Combined with the eight unarmed security personnel slated into the still-unapproved 2013/2014 budget, that would put two eyes and ears -- one armed, one unarmed -- at each Newtown school as a way to ensure the tragic Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School never happens again.

Some parents didn't think the measure went far enough.

"Policemen travel with a partner, and there's a reason for that," said Donna Lorenz. She said she felt comfortable letting her daughter go to a school guarded by two armed officers -- but wouldn't feel comfortable with anything less.

Lorenz was one of several Head O' Meadow parents to address the board during the public participation portion of the meeting. Fresh from a highly-attended PTA meeting, many parents suggested a safety-in-numbers approach.

"The only thing that stopped that guy that day was when the two Newtown police burst in the building," said Lorenz. "You all know that."

According to Head O' Meadow PTA President Laura Tierney, parents at the meeting voted unanimously to advocate for an increased budget that would allow for at least two SROs at their school.

"There was just a lot of support -- parents wanting to support and get involved in the budget process. They're definitely behind what you did," she told the board. "Thank you."

Although school security personnel would not be armed, board member Richard Gaines assured parents they would be qualified and competent.

"At the very least, they're security guards that have been previously trained," he said. "They are able to handle themselves. But they will not be armed."

Some parents went even further. One, Neil Johnson, said he'd like to see a security system that covered all bases.

"On a typical afternoon, when my wife and I pick up the boys, we are unchallenged," he said. "I can go into [Head O' Meadow] unengaged. I could hide. I could stay there overnight. There is no vetting process."

Johnson said he was concerned about how far the proposed security measures could go.

"They can't challenge somebody with a weapon," he said. "They might be able to break up a fight with fifth-graders. But they are going to be another casualty if it comes down to it."

For most parents who spoke, another common thread was clear: they weren't as worried about the proposed 6.5% budget increase as they were for safety and necessity.

"Please consider putting forward whatever you need," said parent Michelle Hankin. "Parents will support you ... Beyond Sandy Hook, there's a lot of extra needs. Help the community to understand why we need increases, and I think people will support you."

SROs are already a permanent presence at Reed Intermediate School, Newtown Middle School and Newtown High School. But until tonight, there has been no guarantee that they would remain a presence at Newtown's elementary schools, as they have since the shooting.

Gaines said professionals he'd spoken with since Dec. 14 had recommended against two armed officers at schools.

The measure is not complete. Since the police would be provided by the town, not the school, the request must still go through the proper channels -- including the Board of Selectmen.

Budget adoption discussions will continue at the Board of Education's next meeting on February 5.

Thomas Crafts February 01, 2013 at 02:37 PM
Two or three weapons please. Each guard should be armed, and the principal. That way this will never happen again. Lets use Governors horse guard personnel.
Fred February 01, 2013 at 03:39 PM
I understand why people feel they need to do something and I had a son in the school. We all know how unusual this event was, thus the media attention and the name of our town being used for political agendas. People are adding SRO's to our town budget. It is hard to dispute that if you could somehow do a controlled test, one where you enacted all the changes asked for, including gun control, and one where you kept it exactly as it was before the event and monitored Newtown for 50 years, a recurrence of the event, or one even close, would not happen in either group. It is tough to accept, but you will be just as successful and have more funds (or less debt) in your coffers if you do nothing. Also, unfortunately, the price (both tangible and intangible) to effectively protect yourself against someone willing/wanting to kill themselves in the attack, is not one I am willing to pay. There is not, thankfully, a pile of "he who must not be named" out there. I do not feel we need to spend like there is.
GRC February 01, 2013 at 06:10 PM
I'm all for additional security - but I think a 6.5% increase is going to be tough to get approved....
Tony February 01, 2013 at 06:46 PM
What is in the 6.5%? Where can we see that? I am for armed security at all the schools. But let's not waste money on security methods that CANNOT prevent or slow down a person with the intent to kill. In addition to armed guards...bullet proof film (cheap to install), panic system to alert police faster. No dependency on calling 911. Also...what are other schools in the area doing? Why do we feel like we have to solve this on our own or that our problems are unique?
Fred February 01, 2013 at 07:16 PM
I will sound like a broken record. We had a horrible incident. That is different than a trend. Everything I read that is not emotional shows that violent crimes, including those at schools, are down and have been trending down for some time. Those security guards or SRO or whatever we call them better bring something to read to work as they will not have much to do. I suppose the unions will prohibit us from giving them mops and dustpans. I had a son in the school and understand the emotion, but can't we apply some reasoning as well, PLEASE?
Matt February 01, 2013 at 08:25 PM
With all due respect, piling armed individuals into our schools especially elementary schools is troubling. If this is the way to go, are we going to have armed and unarmed police/guards stationed at St Rose for religious education (or the other churches in town), how about at the ball fields in the town parks, and at the town pool. Fred's comment above is so true. As horrific and inconceivable as this tragedy has been, the probability of it happening again in a Newtown school is equal to it happening in any other workplace, place of worship, etc. in Newtown or any other town in America. Do we really want to turn into a society where everyone has rifle slung over there shoulder as they walk down the street and handguns strapped to their sides.
carlistojoe February 01, 2013 at 08:36 PM
Let's make this like Texas and arm everybody? I don't think so. Principals are there to administer not to be part of the Wild Wild West.
Thomas Crafts February 01, 2013 at 11:28 PM
Couldn't do that, the kids might become Republicans.
Thomas Crafts February 01, 2013 at 11:31 PM
If you really don't want it to happen again, that is exactly what you will do. If you are more interested in some left wing P.C. agenda, then you will have nobody armed.
Thomas Crafts February 03, 2013 at 12:09 PM
6.5% has very little to do with security, mostly for other stuff. This is an excuse to pump up the budget, and after all why would you waste a perfectly good tragedy?
Matt February 03, 2013 at 01:09 PM
So the right wing agenda is that armed people in every school guarantees that this will never happen again? Sorry but this has already been proven wrong :-).
Thomas Crafts February 03, 2013 at 07:23 PM
No, of course there will be more school shootings, but they will be arested much more quickly with armed personel on the premises.

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