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Local Schools Act After Connecticut Shooting

Districts revisit security policies

and counseling resources

When word got out about the Dec. 14 school shootings in Newtown, CT, reaction from local school districts was immediate. Superintendents took the lead in contacting staff members regarding security policies and dealing with reactions from students and parents.

In the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park Union Free School District, Superintendent Robert Katulak made sure that on Monday morning of Dec. 17, all school principals met with their faculty to review emergency procedures and answer questions regarding the Newtown events. This was done in part to provide a framework for offering assistance to any child experiencing fear or concern over the events that happened. Calls were also placed to parents over the weekend offering counseling services to returning students on Monday and for the remainder of the week. In addition, an administrators met to review safety procedures and talk about potential upgrades.

“We will also be working with our local BOCES to assess and evaluate our procedures that are currently in place,” Katulak said in a statement. “Emails were sent to staff counseling and thanking them for the work they do on a daily basis on behalf of our students. Our parents are rational and educational advocates for their children and they are working with the schools to get assistance for their children in the form of counseling if they need it.”

The Herricks Union Free School District went so far as to institute new security procedures as of Monday, Dec.17, that include locking all elementary school entrances after arrival times—visitors must be buzzed in, checked in and provide information about who they’re visiting and the time they logged in. Security guards were immediately stationed inside the entrances of both the middle school and high school.

Normally done every one to two years, a review of the district emergency plan and staff training, in consultation with the Nassau County Police Department, was planned. For the first time, the district made public that each of the three elementary schools has a video camera at the front door and a panic button for emergency use. It was a decision that Dr. John Bierwirth, Herricks superintendent, deemed necessary.

“Given what happened in Newtown and some of the emails that I got from people, I felt that on balance it was better to tell people than keep it confidential,” he said.

Bierwith also added that the handling of the psychological well being of students and school personnel also is a foremost concern of the district.

“We had all the crisis teams meet this morning, and many spoke by phone over the weekend and prepared to talk with not just students, but with staff members as well,” the superintendent explained. “The elementary school principals will send something out at the end of the day indicating that it’s been a good day but also reminding parents that different people experience different things in different ways and if anything comes up with their children in the next few days, please give us a call and we’ll do what we can to help.”

For as reassuring as this is to hear from parents whose students attend these schools, it’s cold comfort for Nancy Migliore, whose 10-year-old son Santino attends school in New Hyde Park.

“In the last couple days I have heard people and the President of the United States say numerous times ‘We will get through this, We will overcome, we will not let this define who we are.’  I know like them, everyone means well, but unfortunately for these parents and the siblings, [their] families have been altered forever minus one.”