This morning, Superintendent of Schools Colleen Palmer sent this message to families of all Westport students:
Yesterday, waves of shock and profound sadness permeated all schools in our country as again we heard about another school shooting. One official reported in the press that this was the 18th school shooting in 2018, and it was one of the most deadliest in terms of loss of life.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the community of Parkland, Florida as it grieves the loss of its loved ones and struggles to come to terms with this horrific event.
Schools are the heart of any community, housing its most vulnerable citizens when in operation. On any given school day, we have 21% of our Westport residents sitting in our classrooms. Ensuring that our schools are safe and secure for our students and staff remains our preeminent goal. Nothing supersedes keeping your children safe – nothing.
With the level of emotional upset felt in our community by the recent news in Florida, there have been some parent inquiries about our school security. While it would not be appropriate to share details of our overall plans in this communication, it is important to know that our District has comprehensive safety and security plans in place at each of our schools that have been reviewed by our first responders. We work in a strong partnership with all of our first responders, and Chief Koskinas and I regularly communicate, as we did last evening, whenever there are events that can have a ripple impact in our community.
Our District trains staff how to be prepared and to keep our students safe in any event that we may encounter, from a high-impact weather event to an active shooter situation. Every school routinely conducts lock down drills and other emergency drills. Ironically, Staples High school had informed its students earlier this week that in homeroom today the school would be reviewing its lock down procedures for a scheduled drill after the break. The school will continue with its preparation for this drill, but has modified the presentation to be sensitive to recent events.
We will continue to review and reflect upon all of our security measures to remain prepared and to enhance any deterrents to school violence. This past Monday, a team of administrators, District security staff, both our Police Chief and Deputy Chief, and a representative of our Board of Education conducted a site visit to a neighboring school district that employs School Resource Officers. SROs are specially trained police officers assigned to work directly in schools to support school safety. Having a School Resource Officer in our District for 2018-19 has been under review for the past few months, as well as other ongoing initiatives. We are constantly seeking to assess every aspect of our security program. Our safety plans don’t just sit on a shelf, but are discussed, reviewed, and improved on an ongoing basis as we gain new information.
While much of our work on school safety and security is behind the scenes, we never stop seeking to improve our approaches, protocols, and training to support the well-being of our students and staff. In response to parent requests for more information, we will provide a presentation on school security in the upcoming weeks.
Please do not hesitate to contact your student’s school administrator if you have specific questions or concerns related to the safety of our schools.
In addition, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe released this statement:
On behalf of all Westport residents, I would like to offer my heartfelt prayers and condolences to the residents of Parkland, FL. The senseless mass shooting at the Stoneman Douglas High School has devastated dozens of families. It has also vaporized the dreams, hopes, and futures of so many promising teenagers who were lost. All Westporters are terribly saddened and heartbroken over the tragic events.
Unfortunately, gun violence such as this can happen anywhere, as the 2012 Sandy Hook school tragedy constantly reminds us. Parkland, FL has a population size similar to Westport, and was recently named one of Florida’s safest cities.
In Westport, our police department continues to take proactive measures, in coordination with the Westport Public Schools, to protect the safety and security of our students and staff. Our police officers and school staff regularly receive training to prepare for, and respond to, similar crises.
But that is not enough. Congress must pass legislation that protects our youth and all citizens with reasonable and common sense gun regulations consistent with Second Amendment rights. There is absolutely no excuse for our national leaders to ignore this problem again.