May 072013

May 7, 2013

Dear Parents and Caregivers:

Please allow this note to update you on school district discussions and activities about safety and security. In the wake of Sandy Hook, and now the Boston Marathon, the raw and simple fact is that we have all been through a great deal this year. What follows represents our efforts to help everyone be and feel safe in the schools:

1. Front doors at the schools remain locked during the day with buzzer entry. Crisis plans exist for each school, fire drills take place on a scheduled basis, lockdown drills are implemented, and we have developed still stronger working relationships with police and fire chiefs (and their staffs).

2. We convened two meetings with all principals, and police and fire chiefs to discuss reasonable changes to increase safety and security in the schools. A third meeting is planned for June. Each session strengthened the working relationships and communications among us, and provided thinking for what we might do differently going forward.

3. Teams of administrators and police leadership attended conferences: Feel Safe, Be Safe by District Attorney Gerry Leone and the NEMLEC School Safety Summit (North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council).

4. I have named Karen Tuomi, currently responsible for community services in the district, to assume the additional duties of Coordinator of District Security. Karen will be the liaison to the police and fire departments, monitor developments in the field, ensure that we are implementing reasonable practices, and interact with principals to consider purchases in this area.

All of the above has prompted a level of thinking that will serve us in the future. While we continue to feel that school spending should be on providing the best educational program possible (i.e., great teachers and support staff, visionary leadership, technology, and instructional materials), we also know that the limited use of school resources must also be considered for improvements in the security of our school buildings. I will keep you informed as we work to improve both feeling and being safe in our schools.

With respect,

Anthony J. Bent, Ed.D.

Apr 172013

Several representatives of the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District and one from the Groton Police Department attended a “Be Safe, Feel Safe” conference recently to focus on teaching local school districts and law enforcement personnel how to identify red flags and other indicators of potentially dangerous student behaviors and how to address mental health issues that could impact safety in their schools and communities.

Dean of Students at G-DRHS Richard Arena, Florence Roche Elementary School Principal Russell Hoyt, Middle School South Assistant Principal Ann Russo, Peter Twomey Youth Center Director Karen Tuomi, and Detective Robert Breault of the Groton Police Department attended the conference on April 3 at Nashoba Valley Technical High School.

Dr. Robert Kinscherff, clinical/forensic psychologist and mental health expert, and Donald Schmidt a disaster/emergency management consultant, author and CEO of Prepardness, Inc. led the conference with Middlesex County District Attorney Gerry Leone. The conference was sponsored by Middlesex Partnerships for Youth, Inc., a non-profit that Leone chairs and the Leone”s office. It focused on ways to address school safety concerns in light of the deadly attack at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

“Extreme acts of violence against our school children, like those committed at Sandy Hook, cause us all to reconsider what it means to be safe in our schools. That is why I took this opportunity to remind our partners to remain committed to our Middlesex approach to keeping our kids safe, healthy and well,” Leone said. “We expect our children to return home to us safely every day from school. To be safe and feel safe in our school settings, we need to focus on the development of healthy culture and environment in our schools, as well as safe and secure school settings. It is our job to ensure that we listen to and communicate with our young people in ways that allow for meaningful intervention and prevention.”

At the conference, Schmidt spoke about programmatic approaches to school safety and security, based on his expertise in threat assessment. Kinscherff discussed the varying challenges of mental health issues that students face and red-flag indicators for potentially violent situations.

Leone discussed the importance of information sharing among schools and law enforcement and also among students, parents and staff. He highlighted the Community Based Justice program which assesses at-risk youth and students involved in the criminal justice system by bringing together all stakeholders from police and probation to social workers and relevant state agencies. Leone also urged each school district to review its Threat Assessment Teams to create action plans to identify at-risk students and proactively address students” needs before a tragedy occurs.

Leone is the Chair of Middlesex Partnerships for Youth, Inc. (MPY), a non-profit organization which provides prevention and intervention resources and training to Middlesex school districts and communities. Today, in collaboration with the District Attorney’s Office, over 60 Middlesex school districts are committed to examining the pressing social, legal, and health-related issues and solutions that face schools and communities. Through the current and future activities of MPY, educators, parents, and students can regularly engage in collaborative trainings with law enforcement, social services, and community-based organizations as well as share the latest information and resources. Such interactions provide the foundation for creating solution-oriented, community-based, multi-disciplinary approaches to addressing youth violence, substance abuse, child abuse and neglect, hate crimes, and harassment across Middlesex County.