Sandy Hook Promise, local schools react to Florida shooting

Students react at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a city about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Miami on February 14, 2018 following a school shooting. A gunman opened fire at the Florida high school, an incident that officials said caused "numerous fatalities" and left terrified students huddled in their classrooms, texting friends and family for help. The Broward County Sheriff's Office said a suspect was in custody. / AFP PHOTO / Michele Eve SANDBERG (Photo credit should read MICHELE EVE SANDBERG/AFP/Getty Images)

Sandy Hook Promise Statement on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting

Today, not even two months into 2018, we saw the 18th school shooting in America this year. Parkland, Florida joined a rapidly growing number of American communities that have been affected by the deadly consequences of gun violence. A 19-year-old former student pulled the fire alarm and opened fire at terrified students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as they were dismissing for the day, killing at least 17 and injuring many others. Our hearts are with the Parkland, FL community as we understand all too well what the community is going through today, and in the days to come.

This is the fifth school shooting just this month and there were 13 recorded in January 2018. The frequency of school shootings are increasing at an alarming rate, and they happen at this rate nowhere else in the world. Students are only midway through the school year, continuously witnessing attack after attack, by many perpetrators who showed signs of a crisis before they turned violent.

All students across this country deserve to feel safe at school. We can no longer ignore this issue. It is not the time to feel helpless or hopeless, it is time to speak out, take action, and protect our kids from senseless, preventable gun violence.

Here’s what you can do today:

  • Train youth to spot the signs and how to properly intervene through our Know The Signs Programs:
  •  With these proven programs, students, educators, parents and community leaders can learn how to identity at-risk behaviors, assess threats and properly intervene before a tragedy occurs.
  •  80 percent of school shooters told someone of their violent plan or exhibited warning signs.
  •  To date, these programs have helped avert several school shooting plots and threats, as well as teen suicides and other acts of violence.

Support Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs)

  • An ERPO is state-level legislation that temporarily removes guns from a person deemed to be an imminent risk to themselves or others.
  • This legislation doesn’t infringe on the Second Amendment, and gun rights can be reinstated once the person exhibiting at-risk behaviors is no longer a threat.
  •  ERPOs are available in California, Connecticut, Oregon, and Washington and over 19 other states have introduced similar legislation.

Talk to your legislators:

  • Demand sustainable gun violence prevention methods be implemented
  • Also, we urge you to call Representatives to support the STOP School Violence Act of 2018. This legislation invests in early intervention and prevention programs to stop school violence.

Make the Promise and/or get your community and schools involved with our other Know the Signs programs:

  • Join us and Make the Promise to protect children from gun violence
  •  Bring our Know the Signs programs to your community or school to teach students and adults how to be “upstanders” by knowing the signs and how to intervene.

As we know, no community, town, or city is exempt from the scourge of gun violence. There are steps we can all take and we can start TODAY. We are overdue for sustainable gun violence prevention measures and need to make a change before more innocent children lose their lives.

We hold Parkland close and grieve with them tonight, and we promise to wake up tomorrow determined to honor the lost and work until the violence ends. Our children deserve nothing less.

About Sandy Hook Promise: Sandy Hook Promise (SHP) is a national, nonprofit organization based in Newtown, Connecticut. SHP is led by several family members whose loved ones were killed in the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012.  SHP’s mission is to prevent gun violence (and other forms of violence and victimization) BEFORE it happens by educating and mobilizing youth and adults to identify, intervene and get help for at-risk individuals. SHP is a moderate, above-the-politics organization that supports sensible program and policy solutions that address the “human-side” of gun violence by preventing individuals from ever getting to the point of picking up a firearm to hurt themselves or others. Our words, actions and impact nationwide are intended to honor all victims of gun violence by turning our tragedy into a moment of transformation.

New Britain Superintendent Nancy Sarra regarding the tragedy at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida

We are deeply saddened to hear the news of the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. While we cannot change what has happened, we will continue to be ever vigilant in ensuring the safety of our students, staff and families.

Our commitment to safety protocols/procedures as well as our commitment to whole child education and wellness are the most critical steps in addressing current societal problems. Our growing partnership with The Ana Grace Project and other community partners has allowed us to expand our focus on student wellness as we are now able to reach our youngest students beginning in preschool.

To all families – if you or your children see or hear of any activity that could potentially pose a threat to our community, please reach out to your school administrator or any staff member.

We will continue to review our safety procedures and we will continue with proactive social emotional supports for all of our students. On behalf of the New Britain Board of Education and the CSDNB community, our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of Stoneman Douglas High School and all those impacted by this tragedy.

Hartford Superintendent Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez, Ed.D statement to parents

As many of you are aware by now, yesterday was a sad day for our country. Innocent lives were lost and others were hurt due to a senseless and violent school shooting at a South Florida school. Please join me in keeping the Broward County Public Schools families in our thoughts and prayers.

I want to assure you that it is my priority, as well as your school principal’s priority, to make sure every student is safe and valued in all our schools. I have asked and reminded all school and district administrators to review all safety protocols. And I have asked all our support services staff to be vigilant and make themselves available for students, staff, and families that might need counseling, or just someone to sit down and talk with about this tragedy.

Please know that safety is our priority every day, not just during tragic times like these, and that our security officers, school administration, teachers, and staff have a duty to focus on the safety and well-being of every student.

Attached I have included some support guidelines from the National Association of School Psychologists that helps parents/guardians assist their children to cope with news like the recent tragedy in South Florida. I am also including materials from Hartford Public Schools’ “Tell Someone Campaign”.  This student safety initiative has been fully deployed in all our schools to connect students with support resources in the school community.

Letter from West Hartford Public Schools

Dear Parents, Students and Staff,
My heart breaks to be writing this letter to you after yet another tragic shooting of American children and school staff. There are no words to describe my shock, sorrow, and downright anger to be seeing students walking out of a building with their hands up past SWAT teams, in that all too familiar ritual that we first saw at Columbine, and again in Connecticut at Sandy Hook. I write this letter not to assure you that this could never happen here, as I think we have reached the point, with so many school shootings, that those are empty promises. I instead write as a superintendent and a father with two children in our schools, to give you my word that we are doing everything that we can to make sure that your and my children are safe, that they are emotionally and mentally cared for, and that we have protocols in place so that if this ever did happen here, we have drilled and prepared for the worst case scenario.

Let me start with actual protocols. Our Director of Security, Eric Dency, is an expert in the field of school security who has presented across the state, and nationally, on this topic. Under his leadership, and in partnership with the West Hartford Police Department, we have changed our drills, both fire and lockdown, to occur in more real life situations. We have them at all times of the day, with students at various locations, while Eric and police are there to evaluate our staff and student actions. In addition, we have prepared for the previously unimaginable by ordering trauma kits for our schools, with emergency medical supplies, including quick clotting agents first used by the military. I hate even typing the words, but I want you to know that we plan for the worst case scenarios. We have School Resource Officers (West Hartford Police Department) stationed at both of our high schools, and SRO’s attached to each of our other schools who act both as law enforcement and safety officials, but also as mentors and teachers to our children. Our West Hartford Police Department regularly performs active shooter drills, and has had this type of training in our schools during our vacation periods. They are great partners for us, and I appreciate all of their hard work and dedication. Over the past four years, we have spent more than a million dollars upgrading our physical security at schools in various ways. We will continue to seek out school safety grants, and it was just announced last week that we have received over $400,000 more from State of Connecticut grants that we wrote to help us to pay for some of these improvements. These efforts will continue.

We are working constantly to teach our staff during drills that there may not be just one right answer on what to do. Statistically, barricading in a classroom has proven to be effective when we look at instances of other shootings, but there are times when decisions must be made as to what is the best thing to do in that unique situation. Drills are very important, but no practice will ever exactly match conditions in an actual situation. I am particularly proud of, and thankful for, our teachers and mental health professionals. The most important thing that we can do is to truly know our children, and to care for them when they need our help. Our counselors, social workers, and school psychologists work tirelessly to ensure that each child is safe, is being checked on, and is being heard. Their jobs, in today’s environment, are only becoming more and more difficult. Today, and in the future, they are available, and meeting with our students who might be struggling to come to terms with yesterday’s events.

I cannot thank them enough for their efforts. Finally, we rely on our children, and our parents, to keep us informed if they hear or see something concerning. Social media allows for many faceless comments, warnings and threats. It is more important than ever that we treat each other with kindness and decency, whether in person or online. When we see something that does not feel right, be it words or images, please let your teacher, principal, or the police know about it. We have to teach our kids that there is no such thing as snitching when it comes to keeping them safe.

I hope that I never have to write to you again about this topic, but I felt that it was important to reach out to you today so that you know that this is not just on my mind, but on the minds of all who work in and lead our schools. West Hartford Police is also increasing visits to our schools in light of this. I weep for our United States that this epidemic continues, and I hope that we find the\ resolve as a nation to do more to put an end to it. Myself, Dr. Morrow, our Assistant
Superintendent for Administration who oversees our facilities, Dr. Nelson, our Director of Pupil Services who oversees our mental health care, and Mr. Dency, our Director of Security, are available to answer any questions that you might have, as well as your building principals.

My thoughts are with you, our children, and those suffering in Florida

Tom Moore