On Wednesday, one day after a likely mass shooting was averted at Westport’s Staples High School, the superintendent of Wilton Public Schools, Dr. Kevin Smith, sent an email message to district families. He noted that the district was responding to both the Westport incident and the mass shooting at the Parkland, FL high school by reinforcing and strengthening the way the schools would approach security.

“In response to recent events, we are intensifying our efforts to ensure that our plans, procedures, and protocols are at the forefront for all staff. The mental health and emergency operations teams in each of our schools continue to convene and to review and strengthen practices. While we have strong physical security measures in place in each building, we continue to review and refine our practices,” Smith wrote.

Smith then reiterated the district’s commitment to safety, explaining that the schools approach security from an all-encompassing perspective, something called “Crime Prevention through Environmental Design.” Calling it an “all hazards” concept, it covers structural changes that have been made in the buildings–locked classroom doors, strengthened first floor exterior glass, expanded camera coverage, etc.–as well as staff FEMA training and repeated practice of responses to emergencies (lockdown drills, evacuations, etc.) by both staff and students.

Staff have also been reminded to encourage students to share any concerns with an adult, especially when responding to student distress and providing reassurance.

“Chief among these items was the understanding that no concern is too small. Staff members were reminded, and we would remind all students and families, that any concern should be shared with an adult. When a concern is shared, the district utilizes a formal threat assessment protocol that details a sequence of steps to understand the nature of the concern and provide an appropriate response,” Smith explained.

He acknowledged the anxieties some students are feeling following that and the Parkland, FL shooting, and offered links to online resources to help parents talk to their children about the upsetting events, as well as directed families to information listed on the district website about mental health resources.

Smith also said that Wilton Police will have increased presence at the schools.

Dear Parents, Guardians and Caregivers:

We write to follow up on the incident that occurred in Westport yesterday. Many students continue to experience heightened anxiety and have expressed questions and concerns about the safety of our schools. Below please find links to several age-appropriate resources that you may find helpful when responding to questions from your own children as well as more details about our physical security measures.

Helping children cope with tragedy related anxiety

Talking to children about school shootings

Talking to children about violence

Additional information can be found on our website under Parents > Mental Health Resources. Should you require further assistance, or have any questions please contact Kim Zemo at zemok@wiltonps.org and she will connect you to appropriate resources. All of our mental health staff remain available to support students and families in each building. Please do not hesitate to contact any of them should you need to.

This morning each principal convened a faculty meeting to debrief yesterday’s incident, surface questions and concerns related to school safety and security, review current safety measures, and discuss most appropriate ways to respond to student distress and provide reassurance. Chief among these items was the understanding that no concern is too small. Staff members were reminded, and we would remind all students and families, that any concern should be shared with an adult. When a concern is shared, the district utilizes a formal threat assessment protocol that details a sequence of steps to understand the nature of the concern and provide an appropriate response.

In recent years the district adopted a security framework known as Crime Prevention through Environmental Design. This framework is “all hazards” in concept and is implemented using a checklist inventory that is completed at each building by the building emergency operations team.

As part of that work, we’ve implemented the following recommendations:

• keep classroom doors locked
• add appropriate window coverings
• strengthen first floor exterior glass
expand camera coverage
assign exterior numbers to first floor spaces
ensure mass communication capability
adopt consistent responses to categories of emergencies: Lockout, Lockdown, Evacuate, Shelter. All of our students and staff practice these drills.

Additionally, all of our emergency operations team members have participated and been certified in several FEMA trainings including Incident Management and All Hazards Training. Teams participate in ongoing training throughout the year.

In response to recent events, we are intensifying our efforts to ensure that our plans, procedures, and protocols are at the forefront for all staff. The mental health and emergency operations teams in each of our schools continue to convene and to review and strengthen practices. While we have strong physical security measures in place in each building, we continue to review and refine our practices.

It is important to note that our local first responders are critical partners in the work of school safety. Our Wilton Police will continue to have a heightened presence on our campus and we maintain open and robust communication.

These are trying times and as a community we need to continue to come together to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of all of our children. Please know that all of our school personnel are your partners committed to ensuring your child’s safety. We will continue to provide updates around school safety and security as we move through the remainder of the year.

Sincerely,

Kevin Smith
Superintendent of Schools

Kim Zemo
Safe School Climate Coordinator

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