School surveys focus on communication

Administrators at Holland Hill School called Fairfield police on March 5 to note a threat made by a parent to paraprofessional. The incident is being cited as one of the reasons police are working with the schools to increase security.

Sandy Hook changed the game on how towns view safety in schools. Fairfield police, notably Sgt. Suzanne Lussier and Lt. James Perez, have been conducting safety surveys since a Jan. 4 meeting with Superintendent of Schools Dr. David Title.

“We’re trying to build a communication network with the schools,” Lussier said. “There is going to be a lot of changes to school security.”

Of the estimated 30 institutions requesting surveys, so far Lussier and Perez have completed 10. The Holland Hill School assessment and plan will be one of the first presented to the Board of Education. The full list of locations to be surveyed includes public, private and nursery schools.

Lussier said there are three facets to the surveys and the police goals with the schools.

The first is a general assessment of the safety dangers, concerns and solutions at each institution. This includes walk-throughs of the facility and grounds to identify problem areas.

Secondly, Lussier and Perez want to create standards and protocols for training staff on how to handle concerning situations. To guarantee safety they want to see policies that limit access and disruptions throughout the day.

Perez had previously noted that at some schools parents bring items to their children late in the day and want to go directly to the classrooms. That will stop. New procedures for delivering items and picking up children will be implemented.

Lastly, the police want to work out a method of communication with the schools that will allow for faster notification between both parties. The officers want the educators to know if there has been a violence or domestic situation they should be aware of immediately, and in turn they want to know when there are situations inside the schools.

Lussier and Perez have been doing the surveys mostly by themselves on behalf of the town. They have been critical of neighboring communities, notably Westport, which have sought to pay as much as $100,000 to outside consultant firms to do their own surveys.

Lussier noted that no outside organization is going to have the same resources or even the same depth of town knowledge as the local police. Also, if something did occur it would ultimately fall on police to address the situation anyway. It just proves more sensible to not include a middleman.

“Timely response to an incident like that hopefully can diffuse a situation that could have been violent or disconcerting,” said Lussier, referencing the Holland Hill mother. The suspect reported on March 5 has a history of going head to head with school administrators and has been previously reported to the Department of Children and Families.

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