Norwich parents at forum call for better school security

Norwich Chief of Police Louis Fusaro, left, addresses attendees during a school safety forum for parents and members of the public Tuesday evening in the Kelly Middle School auditorium in Norwich. Norwich Superintendent of Schools Abby Dolliver, right, looks on.

Norwich — Parents urged school officials to hire armed security guards and called the security buzzer system "a joke" during a public forum to address school safety in the wake of the deadly school shooting Friday in Newtown.

More than 100 residents and city officials, including police and fire department personnel, gathered Tuesday at the Kelly Middle School auditorium for a forum on school safety.

Since Friday, police have increased their presence around city schools. Marked police cars are a deterrent, Police Chief Louis Fusaro said, and they help to assure parents that the schools are protected.

As the incident was unfolding in Newtown Friday, the John M. Moriarty School in Norwich was undergoing a lockdown drill by coincidence, Fusaro said.

"I have to tell you we're not just working together this week or last week but all the time with this goal in mind," Superintendent Abby Dolliver said of the participation by Norwich emergency response officers.

But parents were not satisfied with current safety methods.

Resident Quintin Veale, who has two children ages 2 and 4, asked for support of a nationwide petition drive that would mandate armed guards in all schools. He said he has gotten "98 percent" positive response to his effort to solicit support for an Internet petition.

Echoing comments from several others, parent Victor Menor called the current security buzzer system "a joke," saying school officials simply open the doors as soon as someone hits the buzzer without asking for identification or the person's reason for entering the school.

Sometimes one person will hold the door open for another person entering the school.

Menor said he was concerned about police response time, given that police arrived within four minutes in Newtown and 26 people had been killed.

"If we can hire a janitor, why can't we hire an armed security guard?" he asked.

Parents asked numerous questions about lockdown drills: how they work for children at recess, how often they are practiced and whether the drills are critiqued for shortcomings. Dolliver said all situations and all sections of the schools are included in drills, and school officials review all drills with the goal of improving the operation.

Dolliver said the security buzzer system would be improved, with more questions asked before the door is opened.

Local efforts

East Lyme: A community forum will be held at 6 tonight at East Lyme High School to discuss school security. School administrators, safety officers and board members, as well as town police and First Selectman Paul Formica, will be present.
Griswold: A vigil will be held at 7 tonight at the Griswold Veteran's Memorial Park located at the intersection of Ashland and Hill streets in the Jewett City section of town. Those who attend are asked to provide their own cellphones, candles or flashlight.
Lyme/Old Lyme: A meeting will be held at 6:30 tonight at Lyme-Old Lyme High School to discuss the impact the tragedy has had on the school system. Town leaders, resident troopers and school board members will be present.
Old Lyme: The Shoreline Church, 287 Shore Road, will hold a candle light vigil from 7 to 8 tonight for the families of the victims of the Newtown tragedy. All are invited.
Waterford: A vigil for the 26 victims of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown is scheduled for this Sunday. The interdenominational vigil is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m., in the Waterford High School auditorium. Waterford High School is located at 20 Rope Ferry Road.


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