Shelton schools increase police presence in wake of Texas shooting

Photo of Brian Gioiele
The Shelton Board of Education offices.

The Shelton Board of Education offices.

Contributed photo

SHELTON — Police presence were increased around the schools Wednesday in the wake of the massacre at the Texas elementary school, according to Police Lt. Robert Kozlowsky.

Superintendent Ken Saranich said patrol officers already make routine stops at all the schools regularly, and the police department has three school resource officers on staff at the three different school levels.

On Tuesday, a lone gunman killed 19 children and two adults at Robb Elementary School in the town of Uvalde, a seven-square-mile community located about 85 miles west of San Antonio.

“The Shelton Public School system has standard protocols and procedures in place regarding school safety at all times,” Saranich said. “We are also very fortunate to have a partnership with the Shelton Police Department.”

Board of Education Chair Kathy Yolish stated that the massacre in Texas weighs heavy on the hearts of everyone. The Board of Education planned to have a moment of silence to pray for the victims and their families at Wednesday night’s meeting.

“The tragedy of the event at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, brings back to memory that horrific day in Sandy Hook,” Yolish said, referring to the shooting of 20 students and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. “While I have no answers, I do feel that having our SRO officers and security in our schools is a great benefit.”

Yolish said more school resource officers would always be welcome, but “we value our bond with the Shelton Police Department and know that they have our backs.”

Deb Keller, teachers union president said, “All teachers, not just Shelton’s, are devastated by the tragedy that occurred in Texas. After the Sandy Hook tragedy Shelton implemented many proactive measures in our schools to help ensure the safety of all students and staff.”

Keller said these precautions are still followed and staff do simulated drills every month to keep the students alert.

“All teachers are feeling great sorrow for the families of the children and staff that were murdered," Keller said. “We are not addressing this in the classrooms, especially not with our younger students. We are all assuring them that their safety is our number one concern and if they need to talk, we have staff in all our buildings that they can speak to.”

Keller said that “our students have had too many tragic events to deal with these past two years and because of this climate we are not only teaching the curriculum but also dealing with their social emotional wellness.”

Saranich sent a statement to the school community Wednesday asking all to “be sensitive and mindful of the feelings of others today.

“With so many current tragedies present in our students’ lives, I ask that each of you be mindful of everyone’s social and emotional needs," Saranich said. “If you believe someone needs support, please contact a school counselor or administration.

“I ask that each of you continue doing your part as we all want to successfully and safely end our school year in a positive way,” Saranich added.

Patti Moonan, a Shelton Board of Education member, said she was numb when she heard the news Tuesday night.

Moonan, who is now a licensed marriage and family therapist working for the city of North Haven’s counseling service, was working as a therapist at Newtown Youth and Family Services when a lone gunman killed the 26 students and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012.

“I came home to see this, and I said ‘Oh my God, here it is again,’” Moonan said.

Moonan had just been hired at Newtown Youth and Family Services only four days before the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary. She spent the next four and a half years working with more than 40 clients at any one time. More than 80 percent of who she was assisting were experiencing trauma from the Sandy hook shooting.

“This just brings it all back, retraumatizing people,” Moonan said.

In Shelton, she says, the shooting in Texas only adds to the emotional stress so many are facing after the stabbing death of Shelton resident and Fairfield Prep student James McGrath.

Moonan said while she cannot directly offer therapy for trauma from the McGrath death to people in Shelton because of a conflict of interest, she was searching for resources for those in need. She was doing that Tuesday when she learned about the shooting in Texas.

“After this, you find people cannot process what has happened … they cannot focus,” Moonan said. “You have to understand that the entire community is hurting.”

Moonan said therapy starts by bringing people together in groups and letting them talk. In Newtown, Moonan said after some three months, therapists started bringing in just individuals or families.

She said the key is helping people learn to regulate their emotions and having them find ways to calm themselves, such as reading, walking, or listening to music.

Yolish said she personally feels that with such tragedies occurring more frequently having a school counselor and social worker in each elementary school would be an asset.

She said she believes that would help in reducing such tragic events in the future by identifying and providing help to those students in crisis and need at an early age. And having more support in upper elementary through high school would be an added value, she said.

“But as a school system, we have excellent people at the helm who will do everything in their power to keep our kids and staff safe,” Yolish said.

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com