The February mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, resulting in the senseless loss of 17 lives was another tragic event for public education and the nation. It is a sad day when any superintendent of schools cannot 100 percent guarantee the safety of students and staff in school. This all-too-familiar school shooting was yet another awful reminder for our need to be vigilant in maintaining the highest level of safety and security in our schools.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of the children, adults and families impacted by the senseless shootings in Florida. At the same time, I am inspired by the students’ call to action as schoolchildren across the country lift up their voices to accomplish perhaps what politicians and professional organizations have been unable or unwilling to achieve. Their efforts have inspired the Enough is Enough movement that calls for a National School Walkout on March 14 and a March for Our Lives on March 24. Education is both the bedrock and future of our democracy. Students’ activism in the democratic process around school safety may actually help ensure a safe education for all of America’s schoolchildren. In Granby, we will be responsive, respectful and supportive of our own students’ opinions and needs as they reflect on these complex issues.
Our school district’s first priority is always the safety and support of our students and staff. In collaboration with the Granby Police Department and outside agencies, we continue to monitor, improve, practice, and maintain safety protocols that are in line with guidelines provided by the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Homeland Security.
We must continue to invest in the security of our schools. While we don’t want to turn our schools into imposing fortresses, we have a responsibility to our students to ensure they can feel safe. Despite the state’s fiscal crisis, Connecticut has led the effort to provide funding for school security. Over the years, funding from the State Safety and Security Grant, the Capital Improvement Fund and the General Fund has enabled the district to make significant security upgrades. Maintaining safe schools requires cultivating schools that are physically, but most importantly, emotionally safe places for students. It is essential that we continue our efforts to build a culture in which students are comfortable communicating their concerns with school staff. That line of communication is most critical in preventing violence in schools. Cultivating healthy and open relationships between our staff, students and parents remains the foundation of such a culture.
It is hard to discuss school safety without including the role of the Second Amendment. The issues surrounding the Second Amendment can be complex and polarizing. But, surely, we should be able to agree on having gun laws and background checks across the country that will contribute to the safety of our nation’s children.
Finally, we must not only identify individuals at risk of committing acts of violence but we must expand mental health and counseling services to ensure they receive the services and interventions necessary before they resort to violence. The sad reality is that we do not have the ability to require treatment and, in most cases, our hospitals and clinical institutions do not have the staff nor the capacity to address the needs of such individuals.
Moving forward in these troubling times, Granby will continue to take proactive, reasonable and measured steps to protect our children while maintaining a warm and welcoming environment. Every day, Granby parents entrust our staff with their children, which is a tremendous privilege and a huge responsibility. Collectively, we are appreciative of our staff’s effort to both inspire and protect our schoolchildren. Yes, let us hope and pray during these difficult times but let us also stand with our young people and take action to ensure Enough is Enough!