In response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida that left 17 students and teachers dead earlier this month, New Haven Public Schools administrators and district security officers announced new security measures in city schools at Monday’s Board of Education meeting.
With the help of the New Haven’s police and fire departments, the school district unveiled new initiatives, including standardized responses to alarms and new a task force to review and update safety policies.
“We have a real concern in our country today, and it needs to be addressed by our leaders,” NHPD Sergeant Albert McFadden said at the Feb. 26 meeting. “We’re going to do everything on our part to stay ahead, to be forward thinking and not reactionary.”
Starting Feb. 26, the district will reorient and standardize the way it responds to school alarm activation by deploying two police officers and calling on the fire department to respond, McFadden said. The New Haven Fire Department will also make school floor plans available on departmental mobile devices, ensuring that officers are familiar with the layout of each school in the district.
A newly formed School Safety Security Taskforce in the district will evaluate current safety policies, and consider and develop new initiatives to increase safety in schools. New Haven Public Schools Chief Operating Officer William Clark emphasized the need for collaboration between schools and New Haven security departments to protect students from danger.
“After the most recent tragedy in Florida, we once again found ourselves scared to death,” Clark said at the meeting.
McFadden said two police officers and two NHPD supervisors in the district recently attended a five-day federal training program that focused on the proper response to active shootings. The people who completed the course will train the other officers in the district on drills designed to help responders locate and contain a target, he said.
Thaddeus Reddish, director of security of the New Haven Public Schools, said the city schools have continuously updated their security measures since the 1999 school shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado.
While school safety officers have been training and learning the layouts of schools, Reddish said his team will begin discussions with principals to develop specialized response methods tailored to individual schools’ needs.
“Each school is different, each school is going to respond differently,” Reddish said.
At the moment, he said, the top priority is to ensure schools secure their perimeters by keeping doors locked and requiring visitors to sign in before entering.
After the Sandy Hook shooting in December 2012, the school system also implemented a new emergency response system using a state grant. The system outlined the planning and coordination between New Haven Public Schools and city officers, Clark said.
As part of the influx of state funding after that shooting, the school also used grants to expand video camera use and key-card access systems. The school system also implemented a technology platform that allowed select officers to view video in real time.
The district completed its All-Hazards School Security and Safety Plan this year, which is mandated by the state, making it the first school system to comply with these standards. As a result, New Haven will serve as a site used by the state government to test emergency training exercises.
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