Awareness Increases School Safety, Stamford Officials Say

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John Perrotta, director of safety and security for Stamford Public Schools, asked whether people checked for emergency exits when they came to the First Presbyterian Church on Monday night for a security meeting. Photo Credit: Anthony Buzzeo

STAMFORD, Conn. — When was the last time you entered a room and checked for the nearest emergency exits? Stamford Public Schools are trying to get people to do just that to be more aware of their surroundings, especially after the shooting in Newtown, a school security official said Monday night. 

The school district has also increased training on security issues, and safety drills to prepare students and teachers for emergencies are being taken more seriously, John Perrotta, director of safety and security for the district, said at a community meeting at First Presbyterian Church.

Stamford has launched a task force to check each school to see where security can be tightened without hurting student productivity, said Ted Jankowski, city director of public safety, health and wellness. Police officers in every school are not the answer, he said. Not only is it not affordable for the city, he said, but also one officer may not have been able to stop the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

“We don’t want to make (schools) fortresses,” Jankowski said.

As the schools look for ways to be more secure, Superintendent Winifred Hamilton said other people need to help as well by caring for something beyond themselves, committing to a plan of action and standing together as a community.

“It’s not going to happen if each and every one of us don’t get involved,” Hamilton said.

The Monday event was held for city officials to explain how schools are being made safer, as well as to provide resources to parents and others on how to get help for kids dealing with trauma and other mental health issues.

“We need to be a community that stands up and stands together,” said the Rev. Kate Heichler, executive director of the Interfaith Council of Southwestern Connecticut, one of the sponsoring organizations. People need to live in faith and love, not in fear of change, she said.

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