SCHOOLS Sharpen Security in Wake of Newtown Tragedy
Interim Superintendent Anthony Bent acted quickly following the unspeakable tragedy at an elementary school in Newtown, CT. The tragedy occurred Friday and Monday morning when Groton-Dunstable schools opened, Dr. Bent had a letter for parents and staff explaining what the school district planned to do in the week following the shootings. (See Page Two for letter) In the letter
Dr. Bent encouraged building principals and staff to be alert for any children who may express discomfort or anxiety about the Connecticut events and if so to bring them to school counselors if they believed it was needed.
Dr. Bent stated in the letter and in a brief telephone interview that schools are a safe environment for children. "Schools remain the safest place for children," he said. Dr. Bent noted that Groton-Dunstable school buildings have a locked door policy with buzzer access whereby doors are locked after schools open and visitors to the building must ring a buzzer and have a staff person let them into the building. He noted that many schools in Massachusetts don't lock their doors after opening.
Dr. Bent also noted in the letter that schools in the district routinely go through evacuation drills, fire drills and lock down drills. He said those practices will continue and that staff in the school district will review those procedures to ensure they are effective in light of the Connecticut tragedy. "We take all the precautions we can," Dr. Bent said. He added that a tragedy like the one that just occurred prompts staff to sharpen procedures with a view towards doing everything we can do to make Groton-Dunstable's buildings safe.
Dr. Bent also set the tone for the school district during this week that emphasized safety and normalcy. "Of all things we do in schools, creating a safe environment is first," he stated. Without a safe environment, he noted, learning cannot take place. He suggested that principals, teachers and staff proceed with normal routine during the week and be observant of children's behavior. Dr. Bent said he visited the Florence Roche school on Monday and it appeared to him that it was a normal day. He said that teachers told him that the children were fine.
At the end of this week, Dr. Bent said he will meet with Chiefs of Police from Groton and Dunstable and building principals to review safety procedures in the district and whether such procedures need changes or improvement. Dr. Bent said safety is the top priority in the school district and the buildings but acknowledged it is a complex issue when school shootings continue to occur around the country. "We need to provide a safe environment for children but don't want schools to become a prison for children," he stated.