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Originally published Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 4:19 AM

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Newtown parents want police to stay at schools

Since the elementary school massacre in her hometown, Sarah Findley has found herself driving by her children's schools in Newtown, checking to make sure police are still stationed outside.

Associated Press

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NEWTOWN, Conn. —

Since the elementary school massacre in her hometown, Sarah Findley has found herself driving by her children's schools in Newtown, checking to make sure police are still stationed outside.

The mother of three is among many people calling on school officials to keep up the police presence at schools in Newtown, which has had two officers at each of its schools since a gunman killed 20 children and six women inside the Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14.

"I think we're all just shaken to the core," said Findley, whose children all attend schools other than Sandy Hook. "I think it made it possible for the people who were maybe wavering about sending their kids to school to actually be able to do it."

The shooting set off a debate nationwide about the appropriate level of security inside schools. In Newtown, where many parents like Findley struggled to send their children back to school after the massacre, some say that the sight of uniformed officers is a comfort to their children and for now they cannot imagine schools without police.

Newtown school officials say they've received many emails from parents voicing concern about long-term security. Schools Superintendent Janet Robinson also wants the police presence to continue, saying children have not ventured outside school for recess because of anxiety.

The Sandy Hook school remains closed. Students and staff are using a school in neighboring Monroe.

After the shooting, some school districts around the country asked police departments to increase patrols. Many districts are revisiting safety plans and looking at issues such as whether school resource officers traditionally at middle and high schools should be deployed to elementary schools, said Francisco Negron, general counsel for the National School Boards Association.

Parents asked the Police Commission and Board of Education this week to continue to provide police at the schools.

District officials say they are working up financial projections for what added security would cost.

John Bello, a real estate developer, said his 7-year-old-son, who lost two friends in the shooting at Sandy Hook, has been happy to see the police officers stationed at his Head O'Meadow Elementary School in Newtown since the tragedy.

"I said, `Did you see the police?' and he said, `Yeah, that's good,'" Bello said.

Bello said he believes the schools need to keep armed security officers, even if it means paying more in taxes or cutting other programs. He took issue with a speech Wednesday by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in which the Democrat said more guns are not the answer.

"I wasn't satisfied with the governor last night talking armed security guards not being an option. He doesn't have a better option," Bello said.

Malloy has convened a task force to review state laws and policies affecting guns, mental health and school safety.

"Freedom is not a handgun on the hip of every teacher, and security should not mean a guard posted outside every classroom," Malloy told a joint session of the General Assembly on Wednesday during his State of the State address.

Experts recommend any armed presence in the schools should be limited to trained police officers, said Robert Rader, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education.

Findley said such reforms will take time.

"Having the police there is a good thing to have in the absence of all those other things," Findley said. "This is one thing we can do."

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Associated Press writer Michael Melia in Hartford contributed to this report.

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