CT school districts, police departments ramp up security in wake of Texas mass shooting
(WFSB) - Education leaders and local police departments around Connecticut worked together to increase security outside schools in several districts on Wednesday.
The major difference was that many students noticed police officers outside of their schools; however, district leaders stressed that children have nothing to fear. They hope the increased security makes students and staff members feel even safer.
The increased precautions came in the wake of a mass school shooting in Texas on Tuesday.
School districts in Southington, Middletown, Portland, Waterbury, Oxford, Seymour, and North Haven noted an increase in their security. Some superintendents said they were also reviewing their safety protocols as a precaution while others stressed the rules and regulations they already have on the books just to make sure students and staff members know what to do during an emergency.
Waterbury police and the school district worked together on increasing police presence at schools around the city Wednesday.
For some time, the school district has been working to improve security.
Parents notice the effort and are grateful.
“We need to do something, this is going crazy,” said Francisco Villanueva.
Villanueva has a daughter at Kennedy High and has grandkids around the same age as the victims in Uvalde.
For him, anything to assure school safety needs to be done.
“We do our job, which is sending the children to school. They gotta do something to protect our children because like, this is going crazy in the world,” said Villanueva.
Starting Wednesday, Waterbury police committed to heightening police presence at schools.
They will be doing this for the time being and will meet with school and community leaders to know when to scale back.
This is on top of the eight school resource officers.
“We’re here in the most stressful times and we’re here in those times when things may be going on in other parts of the country, maybe impacting people’s thoughts,” said Waterbury Police Chief Fernando Spagnolo.
Waterbury is just one of many school districts with heightened security today.
In a statement, Plymouth Public Schools said there would be: “...regular checks on all exterior doors, extra vigilance with respect to building access, and our School Resource Officer will be on heightened surveillance.”
In their last few meetings, Waterbury’s Board of Education has approved contracts to bolster school security, like expanding and upgrading video surveillance on campuses.
Superintendent Dr. Verna Ruffin says school security is routinely reviewed.
“You’re constantly looking at ways to be proactive, no one wants to be at that point where you have to react to something. because reaction means something has already happened. So we did,” said Ruffin.
Parents like Villanueva see the work being done.
“We gotta do what we gotta do to stop these, you know what I mean?” Villanueva said.
The recent security contracts were funded with the help of grants.
All schools are staffed with counselors and other mental health staff.
Ruffin encourages families to explore these options if needed.
Parents told Channel 3 on Wednesday morning that they were angry and depressed.
At Southington High School, sophomores Mia Peters and Megan Zaniewski walked to class with thoughts of what happened in Texas.
“My heart just immediately dropped,” Zaniewski said. “It’s very scary coming to school everyday having to worry about stuff like that. It’s very terrifying.”
“We could be next,” Peters said.
Southington students and parents said they noticed the officers posted outside of their schools.
“You have to just trust that this school will keep them safe, and that’s all you can do is just hope,” said Robert Mehr, a Southington parent.
Mehr said he was a college student during the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. He now has two young sons, including one at Oshana Elementary School.
“You don’t know what’s going to happen when your kids go to school,” he said. “You kiss them goodbye, hug them goodbye tell them you love him, but you kind of trust the public world to keep them safe.”
The tragedy evoked painful memories in Connecticut, especially among family members of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims. They said they continue to push for meaningful change but admitted it’s difficult to be optimistic that it will happen.
“People said after Sandy Hook with 20 kids and 6 educators dying that would be rock bottom, and here we are again almost 10 years later, another elementary school and the thousands of mass shootings that have happened in between,” said Nicole Hockley, whose son Dylan died at Sandy Hook. “I don’t know how much more our country can take. And why we keep going through that same cycle over and over again of thoughts and prayers and lack of action.”
“I have been in this for nearly a decade, tirelessly fighting alongside some of the most amazing courageous people I have ever met,” said Erica Lafferty, who lost her mother Dawn Hochsprung at Sandy Hook. “I wish I didn’t have to know know them. We’re all in this club that nobody wants to be a part of. It’s time for everyone to get up and act. Nothing is going to change until we demand that it happen.”
Mental health experts stressed that it is perfectly natural if people feel depressed about the situation, but that those people are not alone. Access to mental health services is available anytime by dialing 211.
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