City officials hold school safety meeting

Event prompted by school shootings in U.S.
By Juliette Laaka | Feb 26, 2013
Photo by: Juliette Laaka Groups of people discuss school safety concerns Feb. 26.

Rockland — Concerned parents, educators and community officials met Feb. 26 at Rockland City Hall to discuss safety concerns at local schools. School officials called for constant vigilance and lock-down drills.

Goals that were mentioned by some citizens included having a security guard at the main entrance at all times, including ensuring there is only one access point to the school and having all schools in the district follow the same procedure in case of a threat. Panic buttons and metal detectors were also brought up in discussion as possible solutions to ensure safety.

One parent wanted the school to teach parents how to talk with their children about how to react in a situation, and not place the burden solely on schools, a sentiment that was well received.

Other suggestions included crafting a plan on how to better organize children that walk to and from school as well as after-school program attendees and how parents pick-up their children.

Clayton brought up a point of what would happen if a perpetrator targeted kids while at recess, and how the schools would get students back into the building to safety, something mentioned to him by a man originally from the west.

Clayton said the meeting was valuable because different people with varying experiences with the school system can generate good ideas.

"Our kids are our greatest asset," Clayton said, encouraging the public to get involved, to join school committees and ask questions. "It doesn't stop here, " he said.

The information and ideas collected at the meeting will be sent to the superintendent.

Common themes included the issue of "right to knowledge," when parents should be notified as to what plans entail if there was to be an emergency at a school.

"Emergency plans are confidential for a reason," Mayor Will Clayton said.

Most parents agreed there was merit in knowing basic measures.

The master plan in place at schools is known by the superintendent, principals and teachers. The details of the plan are not disseminated to the public in case information could be used by a person against law enforcement and school staff to cause greater harm.

Attendees of the meeting met in small groups to discuss their current assessment of plans and future goals and visions to fortify school safety.

Many said they weren't even positive of basic details, such as if doors inside the schools lock and if teachers all follow the same plan or their own strategy. Some questioned whether substitute teachers were trained to implement the school's emergency plan.

Regional School Unit 13 Business Manager Scott Vaitones said teaching constant vigilance with routine lock-down drills would be a benefit to the school system, essentially teaching safety.

Other groups proposed building stronger relationships with police departments, and having local and state entities walk through schools to ensure adequate safety measures are met.

Oceanside High School East Principal Tom Forti, left, speaks with Mayor Will Clayton Feb. 26.
Rockland City Manager James Smith, left, stands with Rockland Police Chief Bruce Boucher at a meeting to discuss school safety Feb. 26. (Photo by: Juliette Laaka)
RSU 13 Business Manager Scott Vaitones works with his group Feb. 26 to find solutions and make suggestions regarding school safety. (Photo by: Juliette Laaka)
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