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School Safety in Stratford Questioned After Newtown Shooting

Currently there is not a permanent police presence at every Stratford school. But should there be?

As many Stratford parents remain on edge following the unfathomable Newtown school shooting that left six adults -- including Stratford's Vicki Soto -- and 20 children dead, some are calling on increased security at the district's schools.

Currently the only full-time police presence is at the two middle schools, Flood and Wooster, and the two high schools, Stratford and Bunnell, says Superintendent of Schools Irene Cornish.

At the remaining schools, security in the form of a police presence is being provided by different officers at different times, says Cornish.

Some concerned Stratford parents want an officer at every school at all times, but Cornish says the resources are not available to make that happen.

"We have to focus on tightening our securities already in place," Cornish told Patch on Monday.

But some say what's in place now leaves schools unprotected for prolonged periods of time. For instance, on Monday, "Chapel had a police officer only until 9 then gone the rest of the day," wrote Carol Martire-Monte on the Stratford Patch Facebook page.

"I do not feel my children are safe," she continued. "If the town has police officers at the middle schools and high schools then they should be at the elementary schools where the children are so vulnerable."

Traci Totten, a lifelong Stratford resident, said she kept her two elementary school kids home on Monday because she, like her 10-year-old daughter, is afraid.

"She knows what happened and we are trying to console, reassure and support her," Totten said. "However, she is not only afraid for herself but for her little brother. She asked me, 'How can I go to school, I can't check on him during the day? I need to be able to make sure he is OK in his class. Those kids were his age. That could have been his class.'"

Totten said she couldn't with full honesty tell her daughter that she'd be safe at school. And driving by her daughter's school later in the day and not seeing any visible measures of heightened security only added to her anxiety, she said.

Cornish hopes to allay some parental worry at an informational meeting this morning at Stratford Academy-Johnson House. Scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. and run to 10:30 a.m., the meeting will be held in the school's auditorium and focus on security measures specifically at the school's elementary schools. All are welcome to attend.

"It'll be an honest meeting," Cornish said. "I'll try the best I can to answer questions."

Mayor John A. Harkins and Police Chief Patrick Ridenhour will also be present to answer questions and hear concerns.

After nine years as superintendent, Cornish will retire at the end of December. As someone who has seen thousands of kids go through the Stratford school system, she said it's been extremely difficult for her personally these past few days.

"My heart breaks for the parents and those poor little defenseless kids -- I'm still trying to grapple," Cornish said. "Every superintendent is wondering, What if it were us? It's been extremely sad."

Cornish said she will do her best to ensure schools are the safest place for kids before she departs in the coming weeks.

A PDF titled, Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers, provided by the school board, is included in the photo gallery above.

Tom December 21, 2012 at 08:16 PM
Did anyone happen to bring up IDEA and how hard it is to remove dangerous students from the student population?
Tom December 22, 2012 at 03:49 AM
We start by getting them out of our schools and placed properly. We stop trying to mainstream violent students. We also start by documenting violent episodes as they happen and not hiding them under the school carpet. We start by reporting the real numbers of assaults, thefts, threats, and other crimes as they happen and put aside politics in the schools.
Mary Lou Santora December 22, 2012 at 07:49 PM
I wonder if a teacher or 2 in each school would like to be made auxiliary police officers.
charlie December 22, 2012 at 08:13 PM
I believe this is done in Texas and has been re-introduced in AZ after failing shortly after the Giffords shooting last year.
OpportunistWatch January 18, 2013 at 03:38 PM
I have had children in Stratford schools for over a decade and can tell you that WE DO NOT NEED MORE SECURITY. Giving millions to a corrupt town government like Stratford that can't handle current spending is like telling a heroin user to cut back. Its just not that easy. We can't even buy a fire truck without corruption and scheming of tax dollars. i.e. Best

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