20 Aug 2014
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Police Presence at Schools: Some Parents Ask for Reassurance

As many students go without recess at school, parents ask the board to ensure police won't be going anywhere.

Police Presence at Schools: Some Parents Ask for Reassurance

Amy Roman is glad to see the police presence at schools across Newtown after the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. But she doesn't want them to go anywhere.

She spoke Tuesday night at meetings of the Board of Police Commissioners and the Board of Education, asking both groups to ensure that police presence is sufficient at schools.

A parent of two children at Head O'Meadow School, Roman says the school system was a major reason she moved to Newtown three years ago. She said she's spoken with many parents in the past weeks.

"The parents I spoke to felt continued police presence was pretty much a given," she said at the Board of Police Commissioners meeting. "Based on conversations I've had over last few days with finance and selectmen, it seems nothing with regards to that is a given."

At least two police officers are on the ground at every school in Newtown, according to Superintendent Janet Robinson, and Chalk Hill School in neighboring Monroe — the current location for Sandy Hook Elementary School students — is receiving a special level of presence.

"There's a lot of anxiety around [continued police presence]," Robinson told the board. "You may see the car at the foot of the driveway as a vehicle from another town. Our police at this point don't have the resources to do that, so the other towns are contributing. We're meeting with the police, evaluating, so right now we're going to say it's indefinite. I know some people want to have a stronger commitment, but we'll see where that goes." 

Roman told the board police presence at schools has been on her mind every day — it's one of the main reasons she feels comfortable sending her kids to school.

"It's something we think about every day when we watch our children get on the bus for school," she said. "And we feel it's gone from a want to a need."

The last line drew applause from some other parents in attendance at the Board of Education meeting, where she was one of several parents to offer public comments to the board.

"Going forward, people do want to see permanent police presence at schools," said Michelle Hankin, another parent. "It's unfortunately a new world people are dealing with, and it helps people to learn to feel like they're in a safe environment ... I think a basic human need is security, and security needs have changed."

David Freedman told the board he also came to Newtown for the school system.

"I agree we ought to have police presence," he said, "but we ought to balance it out with the ability for kids to learn, to play, to enjoy being kids without the fear of turning around the corner and having something happen." 

Freedman was bothered by Robinson's report that Newtown's students haven't been getting recess time since the shooting.

"Having kids go on playground is essential," he said. "Please think about the ability to balance police presence, which I'm 1000% for, with the emotional impact of children."

Board of Education Chairman Debbie Leidlein told Patch there's a possibility the level of police presence may change over time.

"Everybody has their recommendations or their belief in what's necessary and what's appropriate," she said. "At this point in time, I believe the level we have is meeting the needs of our faculty, our parents and our students. But that may change. It needs to be an ongoing assessment and an ongoing discussion."

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