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Delahanty Discusses School Security, Preparedness

Salem superintendent expects issues to be discussed more locally in the wake of Connecticut shooting.

SAU 57 Superintendent Michael Delahanty said he expected discussions about school security and emergency response to begin again locally

Delahanty said Salem schools did not take extra precautions or change any of their normal school day protocols as a result of the shooting.

Without knowing full details on what happened in Connecticut, Delahanty said it could have been "potentially more problematic" to change protocols or increase police presence at schools. Some local communities did make changes Friday.

As fate would have it, Delahanty said Salem High School conducted a lockdown drill Friday morning, before news of the Connecticut shooting broke.

"The timing was coincidental and beneficial, in that it happened before and not immediately following the news," Delahanty said.

Delahanty said the schools have a number of emergency protocols in place, ones they go over with students regularly.

That includes procedures like "return and remain," where everyone in a school is required to return to their classroom if they aren't in one or remain where they are until an all-clear is given.

If someone enters a school and becomes violent, Delahanty said schools will go into a lockdown, where all doors are locked and students remain in place until an all-clear is given.

In the event of an emergency, parents would be notified by e-mail, and Delahanty said currently that's the only means the district has of contacting parents on a large scale.

"We do not have an automatic calling system," Delahanty said. "There is an expense associated with that...I expect this is going to prompt a discussion about that again."

On a day-to-day basis, Delahanty said doors on Salem schools are not locked. In order for all doors to be locked at schools, Delahanty said a staff member would be required to operate a buzzer system to allow entry to schools.

"Staffing is a challenge," Delahanty said, adding at five of the town's eight schools, someone would physically have to open a door to let someone in if all doors were locked.

He expects that to come up in discussions in the wake of Friday's tragedy.

"If I believed a few extra minutes would leave to a safer environment, we would do that in an instant," Delahanty said. "But in my experience, and my understanding of these kind of incidents, the perpertrator is almost always known to individuals in the schools. I'm not saying that's always the case, but many of these people would be allowed in anyway."

This weekend, Delahanty said he expects to consult with other school officials to discuss ways administrators and teachers will address student concerns related to the Connecticut shooting next week.

"Kids are going to be unnerved," he said.

Riley Reid December 15, 2012 at 01:12 AM
My prayers go out to the school community in CT and those families who lost children during such a horrendous incident. I can't imagine as a parent what it would be like to have walked into that fire department to learn your child had died. School is suppose to be a safe place we send them to each day. Mr Delahanty's comments here remind me of all the talks about having school resource officers in our schools and the cost's associated with it when the budget was being discussed. I say there is no price that can be put on our children's safety and no matter what the cost we need to spend it! I am not sure how many officers we have in our schools, I don't think we have a Community Services Unit anymore, but I would hope that those in the position to make these decisions get as many officers as they can across all our schools in Salem and let's do all we can to keep our kids safe.
Stephen Campbell December 15, 2012 at 12:16 PM
There are three school resource officers in Salem schools. They are all certified Salem Police Officers. Stephen Campbell
Riley Reid December 16, 2012 at 05:28 AM
Interesting Mr. Campbell. When I inquired I was told there are only two. One assigned to the high school and the other to the junior high school. There was a greater presence of police in our schools but unfortunately due to budget restraints the Community Service's unit was disbanded and those officers returned to patrol assignments.
Stephen Campbell December 17, 2012 at 12:43 AM
There has never been more than three police officers in the schools. The Community Services unit was broken up more for administrative reasons then a change of duties. The Juvenile Dectives were moved from the Community Services unit to the Detective unit. The School Resource Officers are still school resource officers. In reality with the School Dept picking up the cost of the three SRO's the tpwn and the police dept hired three additional police officers. Stephen Campbell
Riley Reid December 17, 2012 at 02:24 AM
OK, I hate to say this but you are right Mr Campbell. There are 3, one in the HS and one in the JR HS, the other floats between the 6 Elementary schools in town which is a lot to cover for one person in my opinion. The Community Services unit was broken up because of cuts to the police dept budget, not because of any "administrative" reasons. The BOS tried to tell Chief Donovan how to run his department and he didn't like that. So because of this, Seniors, and others in the community don't receive the benefits of having police educate them on safety issues and promote other public safety programs that are available.
Patriot December 17, 2012 at 11:12 AM
Are you serious Riley Reid? Never let a tragedy interfere with promoting politics. Its would be hard to believe that out of the army of employees already on the pay role, a few could not receive training that would assist security. Police officer are highly trained in a variety of disciplines and to take one away from police duty is poor management of resources. Hire a security guard that understands the role of a school resource officer. People need to protect themselves, we cannot afford to put doctors in every home.

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