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Brookfield Returns to School Post Sandy Hook Shooting

Board of Education will address security concerns at Wednesday night meeting.

In the wake of the horrific shooting tragedy at neighboring Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday, December 14, Brookfield educators and administrators are taking extra precautions while trying to retain as much normalcy as possible.

Krys Salon, interim principal at Center Elementary School (CES), said the “core teaching team” came in early Monday morning to talk about Friday’s incident and review a “two-tiered plan” on how to get through the first day back and the coming weeks ahead. That plan was communicated to parents in an email blast over the weekend and includes allowing children a time and place to express themselves without disrupting the classroom environment.

“We have to be very careful,” Salon explained, as “the children we have are very young,” in grades pre-k through first.

Teachers began the day Monday with a “very gentle talk with the children,” she said, telling them “we knew something bad had happened but that the adults were all here for them.”

Salon said that students were also offered the option to speak with teachers and counselors in private but that they did not have teachers lead an involved class discussion on the shooting.

“Some kids need to just play and be happy in school,” she said, stating the focus should be on learning and encouraging a safe, fun environment. “Really, our job today was to get back into routine… and the kids were very much, ‘OK, back to work.’”

On Friday, upon being told that the schools were on lockdown and hearing bits of information coming in about what was happening in Newtown, Salon said her first reaction “was to make sure my building was safe,” which included a perimeter check and canceling outside recess that afternoon.

As parents were notified, many came to pick their children up, and Salon made special mention of the office and administrative staff who kept everyone calm, helped parents get to their kids early and reorganized the afternoon bus routes to accommodate the cancellation of afterschool activities.

Feeling Secure, Moving Forward

Brookfield police will be patrolling the schools all week, however Center Elementary is “already a very safe school,” Salon asserted, stating that all doors leading outside are kept locked and checked regularly throughout the day by the custodian to make sure they are secured. The only entrance that is used while classes are in session is the double doorway at the front office, through which someone could only gain access if buzzed in by the office.

The Board of Education (BOE) will be dedicating Wednesday night’s scheduled meeting to addressing concerns that have risen from the tragedy, according to board Chairman Ray DiStephan, including the safety of Brookfield’s children.

The board originally planned to hear Superintendent Anthony Bivona’s initial 2013-14 budget proposal (which has been postponed to the January 2 meeting) but instead will give parents time to air their concerns and review the district’s safety procedures.

“We want to recognize what happened, let parents speak, then have a full review of our safety protocols,” he said Monday. “Not just for scrutiny’s sake but to reassure people” that those protocols are in place, as well.

DiStephan said those protocols include regular evacuation and lockdown drills, as well as the double-door system at CES and Huckleberry Hill Elementary School (HHES), but the board will be reviewing them with an eye toward making improvements where possible.

Asked about whether the district would consider placing an officer permanently at each school building, DiStephan noted that not only would the cost likely be prohibitive, but “beyond that, what kind of atmosphere would that create?”

In his assessment, DiStephan said he doesn’t “see the answer as beefing up security in schools — the problem is much deeper than that.” More security would be “another layer but there’s no way to stop someone who wants to cause pain.”

“I hope that parents in the community will come to this in an open way and we’ll work on these problems together,” namely, “security and taking into account the emotional role and taking care of the kids emotionally going forward,” added DiStephan, who is a school social worker by trade,

Speaking about the lockdown in Ridgefield Monday, DiStephan wagered that “for a long, long time people are going to have a very heightened sense of insecurity,” however, “School is still the safest place for your kids,” he said.

For full coverage of the Sandy Hook tragedy, click here.

Rob Gianazza December 21, 2012 at 10:38 PM
Not sure where you're going with this. Earlier in this thread I wrote "An armed officer in every building will be a "feel good" action for the community but will do little to prevent such a tragedy." That was a tongue-in-cheek comment to Ray to state that it was not a long term solution. I disagree with the NRA position and also recognize that the NRA does not represent the majority of American gun owners. Please check with Wayne LaPierre to get a more accurate estimate. I am not familiar with schools in Baghdad, but please speak with anyone that has recently returned from Israel. They will tell you that there are armed troops everywhere. Were you in an American airport in the months after 9/11? Armed National Guardsmen were walking the terminals. Let me repeat, I believe that our schools were well prepared for lock down situations and they are preparing to improve on those safe guards. I also stated that nothing is 100% safe, all we can do is be vigilant and prepared to ensure the safety of our students.
Steven DeVaux December 22, 2012 at 12:14 AM
Lay off the school social workers to hire the school security guards. It's clear they were not successful in Newtown or other schools. A stable family life without constant exposure to violence - be it karate or video games/music would go a lot farther than an artifical parent in the schools toward helping kids and thereby preventing violence and bullying.
Steven DeVaux December 22, 2012 at 12:20 AM
That will last as long as a stolen or hijacked dump truck doesn't ram through it. How is it that inner city schools do not experience this type of violence - only suburbia? Follow the clues of the causes to come up with a solution that is effective. Did you know that there is a law in Connecticut that K-2 can not be on a floor level other than ground level? Know why? Ever read about the Hartford fire? The law is still on the books long after sprinkler systems as the answer made all students safe. Check it out.
Steven DeVaux December 22, 2012 at 12:22 AM
Why is this happening only in suburban schools?
Steven DeVaux December 22, 2012 at 12:24 AM
Why doesn't this happen in European schools? Norway was a summer camp last year not a school.
Steven DeVaux December 22, 2012 at 12:31 AM
Bingo John...bingo.
Steven DeVaux December 22, 2012 at 12:32 AM
Well to be perfectly honest no. The overtime qualifies them for a much high pension, which is funded solely by the taxpayers on behalf of the private contractors.
Steven DeVaux December 22, 2012 at 12:36 AM
It might be considerate to consider the safety of our school employees as well (teachers, custodians, kitchen workers, etc.). After all they are part of a community as well.
Dr. Robin Appleby December 22, 2012 at 12:46 PM
In the conversation to make our schools safer: 1. Cheryl brings up the idea of having bullet proof doors and window...the idea of stronger, more secure windows and doors is a great idea. 2. Alan Malarchick suggests having a "Primary Response Team" of "First Responders to rush to help an armed police officer. This would be specially trained, armed volunteers...in one school I read about it was the principal, the janitor and a veteran. 3. Dave Gray suggests that it might be better to have armed officers, out of uniform like the Air Marshalls on planes, so the killers dont know who to 'take out' first. 4. I would like to add that we could have a CODE RED over the loud speakers,like at the hospitals, to alert everyone, especially the First Response Team......"CODE RED room 202 !" We will never achieve even close to 100 % protection. Our schools were not designed to be prison-fortresses, nor would we want to live that way. I believe that it is about putting the odds in OUR childrens' and OUR teachers' favor. We spend billions of dollars having armed guards at our airports and malls......what about protecting those who are most innocent, helpless and precious ?
Dr. Robin Appleby December 22, 2012 at 01:04 PM
I wanted to thank Mr. Bivona, Mr. Colley and the 4 school Principals for getting us up to speed on what is being done to make our kids safer in the schools. Also want to thank the parents for coming to the Board of Ed meeting Wednesday night and sharing concerns and ideas. I thought that Mary Borges gave the best comments of the night. Also, Micheal Friedman, Craig Termotto, Brian Frame and Ms. Morelock were excellent (she brought a security person who volunteered to help beef up security). Other speakers were great and I apologise that I didnt get their complete names but thank you Ms. Neary, Jackie, David and Nina.
Steven DeVaux December 22, 2012 at 01:07 PM
Robin, Go to Israel to see how to live in an atmosphere of constant security and guardianship. How every citizen has been trained in the use of ordinance and has served for extended periods of time actively providing security as part of national service. Perhaps it's time that America has a discussion on a law requiring 2 years of military service before the age of 25 for all citizens so that all citizens can provide for the "common defense" our forefathers spoke of. A well trained citizenry is a society's best defense. If today's law enforcement can't stop bank robbery with facilities as secure as banks - and can only capture and enforce after the fact do folks really have the arrogance and hubris to think they can protect schools more than banks? I think that is folly...and again...it is "after the fact" and not preventative in nature.
Steven DeVaux December 22, 2012 at 01:19 PM
Now there's a condemnation of our future. "We cannot fix society". So much for trying. Write 'em off - all of society... including those from 2-18. I disagree with that philosophy. It is both defeatist and highly negative view of the future we are bequeathing our children.
Rob Gianazza December 22, 2012 at 03:56 PM
Robin, you seem to be responding to this tragedy in a very emotional manner. I suggest that you take a step back and think through some of the proposed solutions and ask some questions. First of all, what are we trying to solve? Is it gun violence? Is it safety in general? How far are we willing to go? Is bullet proof glass really practical? We have already begun the process of upgrading windows for efficiency to reduce operating costs. What will bullet proof glass provide us other than protection from bullets? What about fire retard ency? UV protection? Why stop there, what about school buses. Aren't our student vulnerable on the bus as well? Will bullet proof glass stop a 50 cal sniper shot? Will it stop an SUV loaded with explosives? Should we build concrete barriers around the schools? How will safety vehicles respond? Each solution presents another set of questions. Where does the money come from to provide all these solutions? Please don't respond with we cannot place a value on our children's lives. That is an emotional response and one that not gain the support to implement the millions of dollars needed to provide the suggested solutions. Right now Mr. Bivona and Mr. Colley have made a presentation and will continue to evaluate plausible actions to be presented to the community for their approval. I realize that many of us are impatient, but no matter how many times we press the elevator button, it won't make it come any sooner.
Rob Gianazza December 22, 2012 at 04:05 PM
Steve, Israel isn't the only country to have mandatory military service. The Swiss also have this requirement. They also leave the service with their firearm. In fact, the Swiss have quite a competitive marksmanship culture. Yet they are relatively crime free. Perhaps you are onto something discussing societal culture, rather than inanimate objects.
Steven DeVaux December 22, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Rob, Thanks. I have had my share of crying and now time to begin thinking. If people are so opposed to violence and gun use, why do they only talk about it and not picket movie theaters showing some terrible violent films? Why do they expect somebody else to take the actions while they merely provide discussion/ideas/thoughts? Why don't they, as parents lead the way with actions - which speak far louder than mere words? Why aren't they bringing their kids violent video games to police headquarters to be destroyed and to set an example? They participate voluntarily in violent games such as pop warner football, karate, robo machine trashing, etc. All the while decrying other violence. A bit two faced perhaps? Long on platitudes and short on action? Throw a switch at 18 and now they're taught how to murder, kill, maime and inflict pain enrolled in the military's basic training camps. How is that possible? Silly isn't it? You would think such different training compared to the prior 18 years would not be possible. It is and does go on every day for the sake of our nation They watch family violence right in their own homes - know the reasons for divorces first hand and yet are told "do as I say, not as I do" by parents who feel that it's perfectly fine to expect that. Amazingly they watch and learn...and they do very much so...about everything on TV. Supposedly "unbiased" news reporting that is anything but.
Ryen December 23, 2012 at 03:41 AM
Agree, BobCat. The comments by both the CES Principal & BOE Chairman (DiStephan) are somewhat embarrassing. The only two substantial things Mr. DiStpehan said in news coverage was that the issue was complicated & if someone wants to cause pain, they will. But most general conversation (largely focused on police or security guards and guns) is shallow & foolish--it is "feel good, quick patching" comments. It is like running around saying: "What can we do...what can we do???!!!!" No one wants to talk about the mother. No one wants to talk about the kid's history in Newtown schools. No one wants to talk about bullying. No one wants to talk about social workers & school staff failures on the hard cases or the kids that fall through the cracks. No one wants to talk about violent video games(because they know how many Brookfield parents have their own kids playing them). Everyone wants the "easy out"; the superficial; the politically correct; the position that makes them seem like they are doing something while they really cover their own butts. This event--I firmly believe--has more to it than some typical assessments like "a madman had access to a gun cache & did a spree shooting"--there MUST be more to it than that. Media misinformation abounds in this case--evidence is limited once the shooter & mother are dead. Dad and brother are not talking--they know more, believe me. But, hey, let's all keep talking about "armed guard, locked doors & windows, calming talks with kids"....
Ryen December 23, 2012 at 03:46 AM
Well, I can help: 1. It is NOT as simple as putting an armed guard in every building. In the case in question, 2 to 4 people would still have died (maybe the guard, the shooter, and a staff member or two and a child maybe), or--the assailant would have chosen a different method--like car bomb through the front door--how does and armed guard effectively stop that? So, NO--it is not simple. I hope everyone gets that??? And school day security by itself does not even begin to address all the safety concerns that arise from this. I am sort of concerned that we are stuck at single aspects and simple solutions--rather than being a bit more profound about what has just happened in Sandy Hook....a top school system and community in the NATION....
Ryen December 23, 2012 at 03:53 AM
@ Save "We cannot fix society?" Is that quote coming from a "pro-school" parent???? Wow. How about having done more to try to help or address fixing ONE CHILD with some social issues? I am not excusing his mother either. Something troubling happened in that Lanza family for the past three or four years--probably longer. We do not know what it is yet. WE actually do not even have an actual diagnosis for Adam Lanza. The mother claimed Aperger's--but it was not an actual diagnosis or complete program in the school apparently--obviously there was a problem if the mother was being called into school every couple days or every week. Hello! And Asperger's is NOT associated with violence--nor is autism! But I am stunned to hear a parent with a child respond--"we cannot fix society". The pro-education cabal in Brookfield runs their lives around a mantra that we are GREAT at fixing society in these schools! But this was NOT "society"--it was one family--one kid. Is that too much to try to do something about for the schools and community?? I pray not...
Ryen December 23, 2012 at 03:59 AM
An armed police officer in Newtown would NOT have changed things in Newtown. First, I have heard from the community members that he actually went to the high school first--but turned away or did not choose to enter for some reason. He was a SMART kid...you do not think he would have known about armed guards?? It is shallow to look at this crime only as a few guns. I only need mention pipe bombs, plastic explosives, and entrances besides the front door--or inside assistance. This kid knew how to BUILD COMPUTERS--if he wanted to formulate an alternative crime, he could have! Think about school buses and bus stops!! For Lord's sake--it is amazing to me how knee-jerk and shallow these debates can be out of fear, a "sheep mentality", fear of pissing someone off or losing votes, and so on. Can we get real on the complexity of this???
Ryen December 23, 2012 at 04:03 AM
It does not have to be a police officer. There are other options for armed guards. Hiring more policemen is not necessarily the cost effective way to guard schools long-term. Short-term, maybe police..not long - term....
Ryen December 23, 2012 at 04:04 AM
There was not strict security with doors at all entrances--not just front entrance. And the practices of allowing entrance at the front door was not even strict and effective in Brookfield Schools...anyone can tell you that--and not only in Brookfield.
Ryen December 23, 2012 at 04:09 AM
Another comment that thinks if guns and gun laws are addressed, it will help fix this. How can anyone rationally say that? Criminals WILL get guns. Gun laws and Assault Weapons Bans will not stop this from recurring. I have already mentioned the myriad type of explosives, the fact that there are myriad ways to access schools and hurt families or children. I find it shocking that people believe if we hire armed guards, have a total security protocol, and eliminate a damn Constitutional amendment, then we will all be safe......just sad....
Ryen December 23, 2012 at 04:12 AM
@ David--if you do not think that any policemen, security guards, or other persons have engaged in abuse towards children using their "position"--then you need to do a little research. GUARANTEE an incident fitting this profile will come out several times in the next year....more common than maybe you think. But that is a minor side-issue to the larger issues, so in that sense you may be on point. Not sure what "marital status" has to do with any of this....
Ryen December 23, 2012 at 04:13 AM
Thank you for a rational, profound voice of reason and sense in this thread, John!
Ryen December 23, 2012 at 04:14 AM
True, BiB.
Ryen December 23, 2012 at 04:17 AM
Right on, Rob. Excellent set of points.
Ryen December 23, 2012 at 04:18 AM
And you are right on especially about Israel and post-9-11 airports....
Ryen December 23, 2012 at 04:21 AM
An excellent point has been made about bullet proof windows on other blogs: they lock the children and staff INSIDE (like in fire, explosion, other situations) just as much as they lock someone or bullets outside. Do we want that? I do not think so. Think of kids held hostage in a classroom by fire, explosion, or criminal--we WANT them to be able to break a window to get out in that situation. Think of multi-floor buildings also. Maybe bullet proof glass at entrances and the front office entrance--select entrances--but NOT through entire schools--could back-fire with horrific results....
Ryen December 23, 2012 at 04:22 AM
Agreed, Steve and Rob. Great points.
Cheryl January 04, 2013 at 12:50 AM
To further support my idea of bullet proof windows, as others have objected, they could still function as normal windows and be able to open from the inside out should anyone need to escape. We should equip each school with a monitored alarm system (United Alarm, ADT, etc) that will sound blaring alarms outside and flashing lights outside automatically upon forced entry. The system will notify the police department IMMEDIATELY and eliminate the burden of someone inside having to scramble to reach a phone to dial for help. Each classroom should also have some button or way of activating the alarm should the individual already be in the building. It's unfortunate there is no way to prevent such events but we need to do everything in our power to DETER them from happening and getting help to the scene immediately should they occur.

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