BOE reviews upgrades to school security

By SHERIDAN CYR

STAFF WRITER

The Southington Board of Education received a first-reading of a number of updates to the board’s policy manual from the policy and personnel committee at their last meeting.

The committee has been reviewing mandated policies currently absent from the district’s policy manual. The committee replaced existing policies with updated versions that have been provided by Shipman & Goodwin’s model policy service. The policies shared at the BOE meeting either replaced existing policies and brought them up to compliance, or added policies absent from the current manual.

“Sometimes mandated policies replace existing, and sometimes it’s a brand new policy to the manual,” said Patricia Queen (R), member of the committee and the BOE. “Once we’re in compliance with all the mandated policies, we’ll go back to the optional ones. Some policies have regulations and we don’t vote on regulations.”

Three of the policies which were presented at the meeting address school safety.

The first is the policy on visitors and observations in Southington schools (No. 1250). The second is a policy about possession of deadly weapons or firearms (No. 1350), and the third is a policy about school security and safety (No. 3516).

Over the summer, superintendent Tim Connellan touched on updating rules surrounding visitation to schools.

“The process of getting into buildings is going to slow down and be less convenient,” he said in August. “We will be improving security and limiting access, having fewer entry points, and staffing entries.”

Policy No. 1250 states that visitors will be required to receive prior approval before entering any school building.

“The Southington Board of Education encourages visits by citizens, taxpayers and parents to all school buildings,” states the policy. “In order to promote a safe and productive educational environment for all students and staff, the board requires all visitors to receive prior approval from the school principal or his/her designee before being permitted to visit any school building.”

The policy states that upon arrival, all visitors and observers must comply with any and all applicable building security procedures, including but not limited to utilizing security buzzers for access, complying with requests for photo identification, reporting directly to and signing in and out of the visitors’ reception area of the school office, prominently displaying a visitors’ badge or other identification, limiting access to authorized access points, and complying with directives of school officials at all times.

“Despite the fact that I might be the same parent who goes to that school every day, I will need to say who I am, why I’m there, show my identification, and the office will make sure of connection before I go any further,” said Connellan.

Refusal to comply with any of the board’s policy provisions or regulations shall constitute grounds for denial of visitor’s privileges.

Policy No. 1350 prohibits possession and/or use of a deadly weapon or firearm, even if the person possessing the item has a permit. There is an exception for a peace officer engaged in the performance of his or her official duties.

“Any person who possesses a deadly weapon or firearm on the real property of an elementary or secondary school in the district, or administrative office building, or at a school-sponsored activity, whether or not the person is lawfully permitted to carry such deadly weapon or firearm, will be reported to the local police authorities once school officials become aware of its possession,” states the policy language. “A student who possesses and/or uses any deadly weapon or firearm on school property in violation of this policy shall be disciplined in accordance with the BOE student discipline policy.”

Policy No. 3516 discusses implementing an all-hazards district security and safety plan for each school to “bolster their existing emergency preparedness, response capability and school safety and security measures and to best meet all hazards threat.”

Security and safety plans will only be provided to those it pertains to and will not be public at any time, pursuant to Connecticut general statutes.

These policies will be voted on by the board at the next BOE meeting.

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Roy, email her at SRoy@SouthingtonObserver.com.

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