Security Measures, Counseling Services in Wake of Sandy Hook

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 17, 2012
 
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Abbe Smith
NHPS Director of Communications
203-497-7015
 
NEW HAVEN PUBLIC SCHOOLS TIGHTEN SECURITY MEASURES, OFFER COUNSELING IN THE WAKE OF SANDY HOOK TRAGEDY
 
In the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, New Haven Public Schools has taken steps to tighten security at all of its schools and to offer counseling services and resources to students and families who need it.
 
“As students returned to school today and we begin the difficult task of healing after the Sandy Hook tragedy, I want to reassure parents that their children are safe and well-cared for,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Reginald Mayo. “We have tightened security at all of our schools and have counseling available to any child who needs it. I commend our teachers, principals and school staff for embracing this difficult day with courage and grace and for helping their students heal and stay focused on learning.”
 
The following steps have been taken since Friday to strengthen security and offer support to students and family:
 
School Security
 
·         Police Chief Dean Esserman ordered increased patrols in the area of all schools since Friday afternoon. This will continue through the week.
·         Police officers are visiting school buildings and doing walkthroughs.
·         Our greatest defense in protecting our schools is human vigilance. Superintendent Mayo asked principals, teachers and staff to be on heightened alert throughout the week and to report any suspicious behavior to staff or security personnel.
·         Principals have stationed staff at school entrances.
·         On Monday, Central Officer staff were visiting every school to check for security measures and assess need.
·         Doors locked during school hours; security cameras and buzzer systems in use for parents and visitors who wish to enter the school building.
·         Continued enforcement of entry procedures at schools, including the use of metal detectors (where available), bag searches, sign in sheets and other entry protocols.
·         We also have school resource officers in many of the high schools and community-based officers visiting elementary schools. These police officers offer an additional resource for keeping our students safe at school.
·         Truancy staff were sent to schools for additional support.
·         Central Office staff will check in with principals at the end of the day Monday to assess how the day went and determine if additional steps are needed to tighten security.
·         The district will create an ad hoc committee tasked with looking at ways to improve school security. Committee will include Central Office administrators, principals, teachers, parents, police, Board of Education and Board of Aldermen members.
 
Counseling Services
 
A school shooting is a traumatic event for children and families. We have notified school social workers, psychologists and guidance counselors to be available for counseling in the schools on Monday and throughout the week if students, teachers or staff need help dealing with the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting.
 
Additionally:
·         Principals met with social workers, psychologists, counselors and staff at the beginning of the day Monday to discuss age-appropriate ways to talk to students about what happened.
·         Each school has a crisis intervention manual available to aid staff in coming up with a plan.
·         We set up a hotline in Central Office for school staff to call if they needed additional resources for their students or if they have questions.
·         Central Office staff visited schools throughout the day to offer additional support.
·         Social workers and school psychologists will meet as a group Monday afternoon to debrief about what happened at the school level during the day and to find ways to address additional needs.
 
Resources for Parents
 
·         We sent a Parent Link phone message to every parent in the district on Friday and again on Sunday evening, with information about increased security and counseling services available.
·         On the Parent Link message, Superintendent Mayo reassured parents their children will be safe and well-cared for at school.
·         Information was posted on the website, www.nhps.net, about how parents can talk to their children in the wake of a tragedy. Information was posted in English and Spanish.
·         A letter from Superintendent Mayo was sent home with students on Monday with information for parents about increased security, counseling sources, tips for talking to kids about a tragedy and links to more resources.
·         Information was sent to the Citywide Parent Leadership Team for dissemination to their contacts.
 
Superintendent Mayo and Central Office staff were in communication with principals throughout the weekend in preparation for Monday. Letters were sent to principals and teachers with information on increased security, counseling services available for students, teachers and staff and resources for parents.