Back To School: From Armed Guards To Door Buzzers, Different Takes On Security

Aug 26, 2013 by

harmful to childrenEight months after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown left 26 people dead, many schools across the state are preparing to welcome students back from summer break with increased security measures in place.

But which types of safety measures and how they should be funded has been a source of debate, with no clear consensus on the best way to protect children and staff members.

In Enfield, each of the town’s 14 public and parochial schools will have an armed guard at the door when they open for the year Sept. 3. Enfield Police Chief Carl Sferrazza said he believes armed guards are the best deterrent for an “active shooter” like Adam Lanza in Newtown.

Glastonbury School Security Improvements In Place

“These people are homicidal and suicidal individuals. Their intent and their planning is all geared toward killing as many people as they possibly can,” Sferrazza said.

All Glastonbury schools also will have guards at the doors when school starts Aug. 29. The high school and Smith Middle School already had guards stationed there, and the town added seven additional guards at a cost of $315,000 for the school year.

Other school districts have chosen to add cameras, door buzzers, card-swipe entry systems or other, less drastic, security measures.

“We don’t necessarily believe that having an armed guard in front of a school is the most productive way to make a school safer, for a variety of reasons,” said East Hartford Superintendent Nate Quesnel. The father of six said, “I don’t want to live in an America where we have to have an armed guard in a school that my children go to.”

Instead, officials in East Hartford are planning approximately $175,000 worth of infrastructure improvements. About $50,000 has already been spent on such upgrades, including installing “access control systems” at Norris, Pitkin, Synergy and East Hartford High schools, Quesnel said. Most of the town’s schools already had card-swipe locking systems on doors, Quesnel said.

While some might argue that the East Hartford measures don’t go far enough, Quesnel said school officials are confident that a more holistic approach will ensure student safety without compromising their sense of freedom and comfort.

“We’re in the business of schools, not prisons,” he said. “We’re not of the belief that schools should be covered in bulletproof glass with concertina wire at the front door.”

Much of the money spent on school security has been funneled toward improving buildings, but Quesnel said officials are working to provide more mental health resources for students to “make sure that our children don’t get to a place where they would ever want to hurt themselves or hurt others.”

During the 2013 legislative session, lawmakers passed an omnibus bill that dealt partially with school security in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings. But unlike the state’s strict new gun control laws, many of the security provisions in the legislation won’t become a reality for some time.

For instance, the new law allows school districts to apply for a state grant to enhance security, beginning in July 2014, when renovating or building new facilities.

The law also requires the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection to develop school security and safety plans by Jan. 1.

Locks, Alarms

Other districts chose to spend their money on building-safety improvements.

via Back To School: From Armed Guards To Door Buzzers, Different Takes On Security – Courant.com.

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