State addresses school safety, mental health and gun laws

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy recently announced the formation of the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, an expert panel that will review current policy and make specific recommendations in the areas of public safety, with particular attention paid to school safety, mental health, and gun violence prevention.

Shortly after the initial horror and the immediate grief over what occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, there was one question on the lips of many of residents: How do we make sure this never happens again?

“It’s the right question, even as we recognize that despite our best efforts, bad things will happen,” Malloy said. “We don’t yet know the underlying cause behind this tragedy, and we probably never will.  But that can’t be an excuse for inaction. I want the commission to have the ability to study every detail, so they can help craft meaningful legislative and policy changes.”

The commission will look for ways to make sure gun laws are as tight as they can reasonably be, that the mental health system can reach those who need its help, and that law enforcement has the tools it needs to ensure public safety, particularly in schools.

“This horrible tragedy has forced all of us to confront gun violence and the terrible impact it has had on so many lives,” Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman said. “I am hopeful that this commission can begin to find some answers to how we can improve school security and how we can address and mitigate violence in our communities.”

An initial report will be due to the governor by March 15, in time for consideration during the regular session of the General Assembly.

The advisory commission will be chaired by Hamden Mayor Scott Jackson. Its members, which Malloy will announce in the coming days, will consist of experts in various areas, including education, mental health, law enforcement, and emergency response.

The panel must come up with recommendations that are implemented. The problem of rampant shootings cannot be ignored, and schools must once more become a place where children feel safe.

Soon after the tragedy, Shelton officials began inspecting schools to look for ways that safety can be improved. City and school officials have been working together to make changes, where needed.

The district has already identified a list of safety improvements, including replacement of entry and exterior doors at a few elementary schools and assessment of existing security camera systems.

The Public Improvement Building Committee met in executive session Monday night to discuss school safety. The meeting was initially open to the public but members of the committee decided that they didn’t want to make all school safety information public.

The district has already said it plans to replace entry and exterior doors at Elizabeth Shelton, Long Hill and Mohegan Elementary Schools. Security windor film and/or stainlees steel mesh screening will be used to upgrade entry and exteriors doors at other schools.

At Shelton Intermediate School, security entry locking systems will be replaced to a keyless scan card.

This type of measure, and similar suggestions, can and should be implemented quickly. While it might take time to pass gun control laws that actually have a real impact, safety measures based on common sense and professional advice should be put in place as soon as possible.