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Boston police plan to increase patrols at city schools after Connecticut shootings

Posted by Your Town  December 14, 2012 05:49 PM
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Boston police said Friday they will increase patrols at the city's schools, one of a number of steps area communities were taking to reassure parents and students in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting.

In a statement Friday evening, Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis expressed sympathy for the victims and their families.

"I have been in touch with the Superintendent of Boston Public Schools and the Chief of the Transit Police. Although there is no connection to the Boston area, the shooting is disturbing. Accordingly, we will be increasing uniformed police patrols in and around schools over the next several days,” Davis said.

In Boston and surrounding communities, school districts were reassuring frantic parents that they have appropriate safety measures in place after the mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school left 27 dead, most of them children.

In Newton, Superintendent David Fleishman sent a short message to parents letting them know that staff will be available for support on Monday if students want to talk about the shooting.

“I am calling to let you know that we are keeping your children safe at school,” Fleishman told parents in the message.

In Framingham, Superintendent Stacy L. Scott said he asked all his principals to send parents a note reminding them of the district’s safety protocols.

The town has been updating its school security for the past year, installing cameras and automated doors to the buildings. Visitors and parents at all the schools now have to be buzzed in during the school day, Scott said.

“It’s been an ongoing concern,” Scott said. “From Columbine, up to present, we understand that unpredictable things happen. We have to be conscientious about keeping children safe.”

In Weston, Superintendent Cheryl Maloney said that she spoke to the police chief Friday and reviewed the district’s security policy. She also reminded principals about the lockdown procedures, Maloney said.

In Boston, worried parents checked on their children.

At Warren-Prescott School in Charlestown, parents crowded outside the school, waiting expectantly to squeeze their young ones.

"I'm completely horrified and disgusted," Bob Carr said as he waited for his three daughters. "This certainly makes me appreciate them more, and they'll certainly get a stronger hug and kiss from me today."

Boston Public Schools Superintendent Carol Johnson was at the school, speaking with parents and media, hoping to assure them that school continues to be a safe place.

"The main message is to reassure them that their children are safe," Johnson said. "We want their children to not be fearful of coming to school, and we're worried that the children may absorb too much of the media coverage."

Elsewhere, Sonia Amado, 33, of Roxbury, who has a nine-year-old daughter at a local elementary school, said she heard about the shootings when a co-worker showed her the news on the computer.

“The first thing that went though my mind is what if it was my daughter.’’ Amado said.

She said she plans to talk to her daughter about the shootings, because it would be better to hear from her than from the media or friends.

“I know she is going to be worried about it and ask a bunch of questions (about) if she’s safe,’’ Amado said.

At Pope John Paul II Academy, parent Kurt Knepshield, 35, said he had been anxious to see his daughter all day.

He said he will check with school administrators to make sure security cameras and locked doors are up to date, and also tell daugthter to be aware at school.

“I definitely want to go over the fact that she pays attention to what she needs to do,’’ Knepshield said Friday afternoon.

Plymouth Schools Superintendent Gary E. Maestas instructed his staff to turn off televisions in all school buildings to shield students from news coverage of the shooting. Maestas said he felt the incident was something that children should first learn about at home. "They need to be around their family," he said.

“Our staff and principals will be addressing any concerns that kids have on Monday," he said.

Plymouth school officials hold routine lockdown drills and meet regularly with police to discuss safety issues, according to Maestas. Those precautions aside, the school shooting in Connecticut has left school administrators and teachers and others feeling uneasy, he said.

“People wonder: Are we safe? Are we in a position where we can protect the children? It’s a tough position to be in,” said Maestas.

“My heart goes out to the community in Connecticut," he said.

In Needham, superintendent Dan Gutekanst distributed a letter to parents explaining that teachers would be prepared to answer students' questions when school resumes Monday.

"Each teacher will receive information and a script about what to do and/or say in the event a student raises a concern or questions about the tragedy,'' Gutekanst wrote in an email to parents.

Chelsea Superintendent Mary Bourque said the depth of the tragedy is difficult to process.

“I cannot begin to imagine the grief of these families,” she said.

“What we need to do is send out our collective compassion and prayers and support to this community,” said Bourque adding that what students and educators witnessed in Newtown is beyond words.

“They are going through something that is so traumatic. It will change their lives forever. That community will never be the same,” she said.

On Twitter, parents around the region told their stories of sympathy for parents in Connecticut and relief that their own children were safe.

"Just picked my daughter up @ school. I gave her a few more hugs & kisses. I cannot fathom what these parents r going through.''

"I feel like I need to run down and get my daughter home from school.''

"I think a lot of parents want to drive to their children's elementary school right about now and take them home and hug them, I do.''

The shootings occur as school officals in Canton and other area communities are considering a controversial new security protocol that teaches staff and students to active­ly resist an armed intruder. Some parents and school officials, however, have urged the schools to be cautious in considering the option.

On Friday, Greg Crane, creator of the security protocol known as ALICE, said the Newtown shooting is another tragic example of too much damage done by too few against too many.

“One person should really not be able to accomplish this amount of carnage unless it’s too easy,” he said. “Traditional security protocols fails when put to the test by a deranged individual. There are too many easy targets available. To kill that many people you have to be really, really good with the killing tool or it has to be too easy. This morning, we saw too many targets that were too easily effected.”

Over 300 school districts nationwide have adopted ALICE — alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate. (Cq) It is currently the subject of explatory discussions in numerous school districts in the Greater Boston area. The protocol emphasizes making active decisions, such as barricading classroom doors; coordinating on-the-spot evacuations; and, if all else fails, throwing objects and using body weight to topple a shooter. The “counter” option that teaches children to resist an attacker when cornered has generated controversy.

Globe Staff writers Deirdre Fernandes and Emily Sweeney and correspondents Meg Murphy and Zachary T. Sampson contributed to this report.

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