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LETTER: East Haven Schools Need 'Clear and Precise' Security Plan

"There needs to be a clear and precise plan in place that offers the same level of security for each and every student," and "there must be immediate communication with the parents notifying them of the situation," Chris Kowalczik wr

The following is an open letter to the Superintendent of Schools, Board of Education and the Mayor of East Haven.

Dear Mr Serio:

It is with great concern that I write you today, for I am the father of (2) two students in the Momauguin School. As I am certain that you are busy, I do hope that you take the time to read this email and share in my concerns regarding Monday’s lock-down at the school.

I would like to begin with the fact that my wife is very, very upset. She spent the majority of last evening begging me to not let the kids go to school until after the Holiday break because she fears for their safety.

She is convinced that your current emergency plan for the school does not provide adequate protection for every student, and therefore I have concerns.

While I must say that the schools quick decision to go into “lock-down” must be commended, I feel the need to address what I and other parents consider to be a very poor execution of follow through.

First and foremost the students were not prepared for this experience; some students wouldn’t remain quiet, others had not “fit” in the designated safe area within the classroom.

There needs to be a sense of urgency placed on the training of the students so they understand their responsibilities during such an event.

Furthermore there needs to be a clear and precise plan in place that offers the same level of security for each and every student in the building and in the end there must be immediate communication with the parents notifying them of the situation.

During these procedures there is no room for errors, peoples live could be at risk and there must be proper planning, training, execution and follow through.

To explain why I feel so strongly and took the time to communicate my concerns with you, I was very disappointed to hear from my children the events that took place during the lock-down on Monday.

Please keep in mind that even though now we know the noise outside the school was only firecrackers, at the time they were believed to be gunshots and the execution of the lock-down should have been treated as such. Although I have several concerns, one stands out from the rest.

During the lock-down my son’s fifth grade class was to seek safety inside a closet within the classroom.

As the students sought safety it became apparent that not everyone would fit and the decision was made to have (4) four students remain outside the appointed safety area and “hide” within the classroom.

This is unacceptable; every student should be allotted the same level of security.

And before you attempt to convince me that he was “safe” hiding in the classroom, even he knew, if an assailant were to have broken into the room, he, the teacher and the other student’s chances of survival were greatly diminished.

How do I explain to my son that during that time of crisis, a decision had to be made as to who lives and who dies if an armed assailant were to enter that classroom?

How do I clear his mind that his life is less important than those safely hidden in the closet?

In this age of technology, communication with the parents should have been instantaneous after the lock-down concluded.

The school has no problem calling my house and my cell phone three and four times a day when there is a fund raiser or an event sponsored by a local school, but when it comes to the safety and wellbeing of our children I am not notified until nearly four hours after the incident?

Some parent found out when their children got off the bus and never received the pre-recorded message regarding the lock-down.

While to you Monday’s lock-down can be seen as a precautionary measure that proved effective towards a strand of firecrackers, the children saw it differently.

I took the time to speak with my children over the weekend and educate them on the tragic events that occurred last week in Newtown, so to them this situation was very real and very frightening.

How am I as a parent supposed to comfort my children and explain the situation to them if I am not notified?

Do you feel that waiting nearly four hours was an acceptable period of time to notify me that my children were, frightened and put into a situation to where they thought they may die?

In conclusion I ask you: How are YOU going to ensure that this type of execution does not occur in the future?

How are you going to ensure that EVERY student is afforded the SAME level of security during a lock-down?

How are you going to improve communication with the parents so we can respond properly to our children during such and event?

Mr. Serio, I am not looking for a generic reply of “we are doing everything we can and working with local officials …. “

I am looking for an executable emergency plan that includes education, monthly practice drills, a safety zone that offers the same level of security for all the students and an effective, timely communication plan for the parents.

This is the safety of our children; I don’t think that is too much to ask for.

Chris Kowalczik

JRSmith December 21, 2012 at 06:25 AM
Just an observation from a parent of a kindergarten student in E Haven.... I picked up my child early on Monday after the tragedy in Newtown. Is it sufficient to simply say "I am the father of 'John Smith', here to pick him up." ? I believe we need, at least, a keycard system, like most companies have, or a system like Planet Fitness has, where you scan your card, and up pops your info for the clerk to check. Let's give our schools at least that level of security. IOW... You scan your card, your picture and info comes up on the computer of the office staff, next to a live closed circuit video of you, then you can get 'buzzed' in. When my child was in Little Jackets at Tuttle School, there were MANY times that I pushed the buzzer button, and someone simply unlocked the door. That, my dear friends, is unacceptable. and, yes, I would gladly accept an increase in taxes to put an armed Police officer in every school from the time the school is unlocked in the morning, until it is locked in the evening. Finally, I would also suggest that the 'guard' at the little house at EHHS actually stop EVERY vehicle and ask EVERYBODY what their business is at the school. It's nice that they take the little slip of paper for my kid's early dismissal... But isn't the purpose of a guard to screen those who are ENTERING the premises?
JRSmith December 21, 2012 at 06:33 AM
According to both of my kids that attend EHHS, there was a specific student who made the threats, and that student was in school this week. Is there no disciplinary action for making a 'kill list'? 2 years ago, a freshman girl at EHHS was suspended for 10 days for whacking a Junior male on the shoulder. Bottom line, the student that made the 'kill list' stated Friday (today) as the day. The school has not done it's job to protect the students, so my kids are staying out of school.
Chris Kowalczik December 21, 2012 at 12:25 PM
I wanted to give an update as to my letter to Mr. Serio, to whom I just got off the phone with. I will say that I was expecting a politically correct response and prepared to argue with him, but in reality he was genuinely concerned and open to suggestions. He took the time to address some specific points within my letter, he discussed some other letters and calls he has received from other concerned parents. He also told me that he spoke with the districts principles yesterday and due to my letter and some of these other parents concerns they all agreed that they need to revise the current emergency plans and drive home educating the children how to properly execute the plan. He also said that he had a conversation with another parent this morning and he agrees with the both of us that the plan should be shared with parents so we are all on the same page. He concluded with making sure I had his number so I can reach him with any questions, concerns or suggestions in the future. I of course offered my service if there was anything I could do as a parent to assist with the process. I know we are not going to see a result tomorrow, but with the return from winter break there should be new policies ready to be put in place. Thank you to everyone who shared, supported and spoke up. It is because of our voice that change is coming.
Julie Weisberg December 21, 2012 at 05:36 PM
Chris: Thank you for taking the time to pass along an update. I'm sure readers, parents and other residents appreciate it. Thanks again.
Nathan Brown December 21, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Chris, from one parent to another, Thank You. I hope there are ways other parents can get involved. I look forward to seeing the changes to be put in place and hope our children's security is taken seriously.

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