Florida shooting sparks forum on school safety Feb. 27

One week after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., the Shelton school district plans to hold a public forum to address concerns and discuss what it does to assure student safety.

Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti said the need to discuss safety plans and preventative measures is a result of the world changing for the worse.

“We live in a completely different world now,” said Lauretti. “The ways in which people are committing these terrible acts are becoming harder to read, which is all the more reason for us to be more aware of who we have around.”

Superintendent of Shelton Schools Dr. Chris Clouet said the district will hold its community forum on Tuesday, Feb. 27, in Shelton High School at 6:30 p.m. Clouet said the forum is a joint effort among law enforcement, city government and the school district.

“One school shooting is too many, and the idea that this has become normalized in our society is a crisis of culture and we need to work on it together,” said Clouet. “We need to respect the Constitution, but we also need to cherish the lives of our students and staff and make sure that they’re not in harm’s way.

“Unfortunately this has become normalized in our society, and that’s just something that we cannot let stand. I touched base with the police department right away and they’ve been very good here. The mayor and I discussed things to make sure our security is extra tight. We’ve also added the presence of extra police that walk through the buildings of all of the schools in the city — they pop into classrooms as a presence and some reassurance.”

Clouet said that for years now, the district has done its best to increase security presence within the schools and closely monitor all potential threats. The district also required its school staff to undergo active shooter response training back in 2017. The training consists of local police entering all the local schools to stage active shooter situations and have the staff follow their safety instructions.

Recent ‘threat’ at SHS debunked

On Tuesday, Feb. 20, rumors of a threat were being spread on the Shelton High School campus, which were quickly investigated by police and addressed by Headmaster Dr. Beth Smith via Twitter and a telephone message to parents of students.

Smith sent the following message to parents on Feb. 20 :

“I am aware that there are social media rumors regarding a threat this morning at Shelton High School. There was a police presence at the high school due to a student medical emergency. It is standard procedure for the police to respond when I request an ambulance. Additionally, I briefly met with members of the police department this morning to talk about school security and will be doing so again at 11:30 this morning. This is also standard procedure, as, after tragedies, we discuss our action plans and any necessary revisions. We also have dayshift officers in the school at different times to familiarize themselves with our building. … There were no threats at SHS today, just social media reporting inaccuracies.”

Shelton police Chief Shawn Sequeira wouldn’t comment on the extent of the investigation conducted at the high school but said he is proud of the work his department does in regard to addressing school and community safety.

The chief added that when his department learned of the shooting in Florida that killed 17 people, he didn’t see the need to make any significant changes to the department’s normal procedures of protecting the community.

“We’re really just going to be doing more of what we have been to keep us as prepared as possible in a situation like that, should it come up,” said Sequeira.

In an effort to continue to improve security at schools, Clouet said, the district is not ruling out any potential preventative measures.

Sequeira said while the district hasn’t considered implementing metal detectors at all the school entrances at this point, it could begin to use metal detecting wands on all people entering the buildings.

“We just want to do as much as we possibly can to keep everyone as safe as we possibly can,” Sequeira said.

Bigger issue at hand?

In response to this latest school shooting, numerous publications have decided to share a statistic that was generated by a “movement of Americans fighting for common-sense reforms to reduce gun violence,” called Everytown for Gun Safety based in New York. The movement released a statement via Twitter on the day of the Florida school shooting this past week, claiming that it was the “18th school shooting of the year.”

This statement isn’t entirely accurate, and emphasizes people’s varying understanding of what a “school shooting” is, according to Clouet.

The gun safety movement’s first recorded “school shooting” is an example of how this statistic can be misunderstood. On the afternoon of Jan. 3, a 31-year-old man who had parked outside a Michigan elementary school called police to say he was armed and was contemplating taking his own life. Several hours later, he killed himself. The school had been closed for seven months, so there were no students or teachers present.

According to Everytown.org, the movement defines a school shooting as “any time a firearm discharges a live round inside a school building or on a school campus or grounds.”

Following an article published by The Washington Post that examined the content on Everytown’s school shooting list for 2018, the movement removed the Jan. 3 suicide outside the closed Michigan school.

Board of Ed Chair Mark Holden said this misuse of the label “school shooting” is dangerous.

“Exaggerating is bad, because when it’s discovered, it distracts people from the fact there really is a problem,” Holden said in an email to The Herald.

Lauretti said he believes the increase in school shootings is a mental health issue that needs to be addressed.

“Guns aren’t jumping off of the shelves and deciding to kill people,” said Lauretti. “So if people want to criticize guns and gun owners, that’s fine, but I think we need to be paying more attention to Hollywood and these video games that are constantly showing this type of stuff.”

When asked about media’s role in spreading “fake news” about the number of school shootings in 2018, Lauretti said, “I only deal with facts, and that’s the way the world is now.”

Lauretti said the community has plans to increase security, but declined to disclose them because of “potential perpetrators.”