school safety

School Districts, Police Departments Boost Security Following Texas Shooting

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Schools and police departments around the state increased their police presence in response to the Texas school shooting that claimed the lives of 19 children and two adults.

Police departments say there are no threats to the public at this time but that the decision to increase police presence is out of an abundance of caution.

A sense of security was felt outside many Connecticut schools, including Windsor Locks where police cars were positioned and seen near the front and rear exits throughout the district.

Windsor Locks is not the only school district that chose to take the extra precautions. Stonington, West Hartford, Naugatuck and North Haven were some of the other areas that chose to add a few more officers around in their districts.

"We are aware, we are involved, we are engaged and we are listening and part of that is our presence," said Lt. Paul Cherniack with Windsor Locks Police Department. "It’s been proven over and over again that smaller communities are not immune to any of this either, this type of random mayhem.”

Western Connecticut State University created the Connecticut Center for School Safety and Crisis Preparation.

The goal of the agency is to help schools in the state learn about prevention and to inform school leaders about the amount of resources available.

“We started offering professional development training, we’re hopefully focusing on our outreach," said Amery Bernhardt, director of the CT Center for School Safety and Crisis Preparation at WCSU.

Bernhardt mentions that the center wants to continue working with school districts to provide both focus and guidance on the best steps to take in the future.

"Comprehensive school threat assessment guideline training, which is also known as CSTAG, and is one of the models that provides what's known as evidence-based models to help prevent violence before it happens," Bernhardt said. "There are several steps and avenues to think about when we talk about protecting students and we want to be there to help them ensure students are safe.

Since the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, many districts have worked with police to create safer learning environments for school staff and students.

Waterbury Public Schools tells NBC Connecticut that school safety and prevention is at the top of the priority list.

Waterbury Superintendent Dr. Verna Ruffin also mentions that the thought of protecting students is always top of mind.

"Making certain that we have a keen sense of awareness, that we pay attention and that we listen,” Ruffin said. "We value the relationship that we have with the Waterbury Police and that we were going to make certain that our presence was there.”

During the last 10 years, state and safety leaders have worked to cut down on response time whenever there is a incident at schools, providing funding for bulletproof glass, panic alarms, surveillance cameras and even added some extra officers.

"I think it has made a difference in Connecticut, you just can’t walk into any Connecticut school, there’s laws against you bringing in your firearms, you come into a harden facility for the most part," said Commissioner James Rovella of Connecticut's Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP).

In Windsor Locks, the steps towards safer schools is part of an ongoing process.

"You’re always assessing information or intelligence as we call it, gathering of information, you’re assessing and that dictates what you do and how you do it," Cherniack said. "We always see if we can make sure we’re doing everything we can within reason to ensure our kids safety.”

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