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New Britain Schools Implement Gun Safety Measures

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New Britain Schools Implement Gun Safety Measures

New Britain High School was under lockdown after a suspected shooter was on campus in early November.

New Britain High School was under lockdown after a suspected shooter was on campus in early November.

Julia Jade Moran

New Britain High School was under lockdown after a suspected shooter was on campus in early November.

Julia Jade Moran

Julia Jade Moran

New Britain High School was under lockdown after a suspected shooter was on campus in early November.

Angela Fortuna, Editor-in-Chief

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While towns allow teachers to carry guns in the classroom, the Consolidated School District of New Britain (CSDNB), Connecticut is taking extra precautions to make schools a safer environment without the use of weapons.

Twenty-six years ago, Paula Cormier, then a teacher at Northend School in New Britain, was more scared for the safety of herself and her students than she is today.

“At the beginning of my very first year teaching, there was a shooting at New Britain High School,” Cormier said. “I was working at Northend School, which is about a mile from the high school. As a brand new teacher, I was worried about safety. I cannot recall a time since then when I have been worried about safety.”

Cormier, who now works at Jefferson School in New Britain teaching K-5 project-based learning classes, feels confident in the safety measures taken at the CSDNB.

“I believe New Britain’s safety precautions are ahead of other districts. Safety is a huge priority in our district and has been for decades,” Cormier said.

Across the country, more and more tragedies continue to take place without warning or necessary preparation, killing hundreds of innocent people caught in the crossfire. As a result, Newcomerstown, Ohio and Harrold, Texas have begun allowing teachers to carry guns in the classroom. 

The number of total mass shootings in the United States varies depending on one’s definition of it. According to an analysis conducted by The Washington Post updated on Oct. 30, roughly 1,125 people have died in major shootings, with many more injured, since 1966 based on their definition of a mass shooting, in which at least four people are killed. This year alone, 45 deaths have resulted from mass shootings.

One of the deadliest major mass shootings occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012, where 27 people were killed—20 children, six adults and the shooter. This incident took place just 40 minutes West of New Britain.

Incidents like school shootings are hard to prepare for, as it is nearly impossible to tell where or when the next one will take place. However, some school districts, such as the CSDNB, are taking steps to ensure students and faculty are prepared in the case of an emergency.

“Knowledge and skill create safer environments for everyone. Our goal is to provide the safest environment possible for all of our staff and students. We will continuously review our safety procedures and continue with proactive social-emotional supports for all of our students,” Nancy Sarra, superintendent of the Consolidated School District of New Britain, said in a written statement.

The CSDNB has a few existing safety measures in place and has presented some additional initiatives within the past few months.

Some of the existing safety measures in the CSDNB, presented by Matthew Cannata, communications manager for the Office of the Superintendent, include: Campus safety officers and administration investigating all internal cases at the secondary level; students and staff practicing lockdown and fire drills dependent on the circumstances; the use of operational, expanding security cameras and alarm systems; visitor logs and Raptor ID scan technology, used to flag unsafe visitors and registered sex offenders, utilization in all buildings.

The district is constantly evaluating its safety measures, according to Cannata.

“Over the past year, we have held meetings specifically aimed at assessing current safety practices and determining what additional measures need to be in place in the event of a violent school incident,” Cannata said.

Cormier believes the CSDNB has enforced safety measures for a longer period of time than other schools in the area to be prepared in the case of an emergency.

“Safety measures have definitely increased over the past several years,” Cormier said. “However, New Britain instituted safety measures before the start of school shootings. Our buildings have been secured with increased safety measures for well over 15 years.”

Initiatives introduced to the CSDNB in the past few months include: Staff receiving comprehensive critical/violent incident training which will continue over the next few months; a mass text message service launched in March 2018, allowing parents and staff to opt in and receive notifications straight to their phones; and an anonymous online portal developed as a way for families, students and staff to communicate suspicious activity. The portal is available at www.csdnb.org.

As a part of these new measures, all teachers were required to take the Active Shooter Response Training (ALICE) in New Britain.

ALICE aims for every school to include courses of action that will describe how students and staff can respond in the event of an active shooter’s presence in the most effective way to minimize the amount of lives lost. Teachers and administrators have the responsibility of anticipating potential dangers and taking precautions to protect their students from these dangers, according to the training’s website.

“In response to the increase in school violence nationwide, we have increased our vigilance in our schools and have established a staff critical/violence incident training for all CSDNB staff.  We continue to work closely with the New Britain Police Department to ensure continuity in safety measures and protocols between the schools and the police department,” Sarra said.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos recently announced a plan to use federal grant money to arm teachers. However, she agrees that it should be up to individual states to decide whether its teachers should be armed or not. Some Connecticut senators have openly expressed their concerns with DeVos’ plan and are trying to counteract her plan with an amendment that would prevent her from using any federal funds to arm teachers, according to FOX 61.

Cormier believes keeping guns out of public schools is the best option.

“It would be totally unrealistic for a teacher to carry a gun on his [or] her person,” Cormier said. “I believe teachers with weapons creates a climate of fear. I am a Republican who is fiscally conservative and socially moderate, and would feel less safe with teachers carrying guns.”

Cormier says this is particularly crucial in New Britain.

“I do not think New Britain would consider allowing teachers to have guns. Many of our students have experienced some sort of trauma in their lives, be it abuse, neglect, witnessing violence, having parents who are incarcerated, living in poverty, etc,” she said. “School is their safe place. I have felt safe in all three of the New Britain schools where I have taught [Northend, Lincoln and Jefferson]. Teachers with guns would make me uncomfortable.”

Other towns and cities across the U.S. do allow teachers to carry guns in the classroom. In parts of Ohio, including Newcomerstown, teachers are turning to the nonprofit organization Faster Saves Lives. The nonprofit has taught more than 1,300 willing school staff members how to properly use firearms. Classes are provided to school districts at no cost.

Harrold, Texas, is another school district that allows teachers to carry concealed guns as “the last line of defense in the event of a shooting on campus,” CNN reported. Salt Lake City is another example of a city with teachers who wish to be armed, hoping to prevent further mass casualties.

Similar sentiments have been brought up in Kent, Connecticut, however discussions have been tabled after the idea came to the surface in 2016.

Not all teachers and school districts will agree on whether a teacher should be allowed to conceal a gun in the classroom. However, the likelihood of arming teachers in the CSDNB is slim to none, according to Cormier.

In 2011-12, roughly 76 percent of public school teachers were female, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. This statistic, Cormier says, makes her even more uncomfortable about allowing teachers to conceal guns in the classroom.

“The majority of teachers are female. How could they possibly carry a gun?” she said. “If they chose to conceal carry in a purse, it would be very challenging to secure the gun.”

“I think it would be easier for male teachers to conceal a weapon,” Cormier continued. “In my building, most teachers do not even have a place to lock their purse.”

About the Writer
Angela Fortuna, Editor-in-Chief

Angela Fortuna can be reached at afortuna@centralrecorder.org.

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New Britain Schools Implement Gun Safety Measures