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After Newtown shootings, audit of Westport school security in the works

Published 1:41 pm, Tuesday, December 18, 2012
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In the aftermath of the shootings Friday that claimed the lives of 20 students and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Superintendent of Schools Elliott Landon announced Monday he plans to present a proposal for a new audit of the school district's security measures.

Landon did not disclose details about the new review or a timeline for starting the audit, but said he wanted to "expeditiously" pursue that plan. A security analysis for the district was produced 10 years ago and that report was updated five years ago, according to Landon.

"We will continue to do everything possible to come to school every day and do so with a safe and healthy protective environment," Landon said during the Board of Education's meeting Monday night.

Reviewing school security will require the input of Board of Finance and Representative Town Meeting members and scheduling closed-door "executive sessions" of the Board of Education, Landon said.

The superintendent, however, also emphasized his confidence in the existing security measures at town schools.

"Everybody should feel confident that we have security measures in place to help kids," Landon said.

Citing a need to ensure students' safety, Landon declined to discuss specific school security strategies. Westport's public schools' security apparatus are generally believed to include surveillance cameras and locked doors at the schools.

Landon did outline, however, the school district's response to the Newtown tragedy. Before and after the school day on Monday, members of the school district's "crisis teams" met to review strategies to help students cope after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary, he said. Those crisis teams include administrators, teachers and support personnel.

Since Friday, counselors, social workers and support employees from the Westport school district have also been "actively involved" as volunteers in Newtown, Landon said.

In addition, education officials have worked closely with the Police Department since Friday. Westport police officers will have an "increased presence" this week in each of the town's eight public schools' areas, Police Chief Dale Call said in an email Monday to the Westport News. Police also plan to meet with education officials to review local school security measures, Call added.

A number of parents also expressed concerns Monday about their children's safety on school grounds.

"The biggest thing for my husband and I is we're not afraid of making our schools a fortress," said Jane Raba, the mother of a kindergartner at Saugatuck Elementary School. "When we go to work, we have security guards at our offices. We work in construction, we have security guards at nighttime. We call in police officers when we're in areas of concern. We want to make sure our kids have the same security that we have when we go out to work."

Other parents recommend that the school district not allow unannounced visitors at the town's schools and the new audit planned by Landon include a review of security on school buses.

pschott@bcnnew.com; 203-255-4561, ext. 118; twitter.com/paulschott