Legislative task force talks school safety - WNEM TV 5

Legislative task force talks school safety

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The legislative task force formed in the wake of the mass shooting in Newtown last month held its second hearing with the focus being on school safety in Hartford on Friday.

The goal of the task force, which is broken into three subcommittees, is to develop ways to reduce gun violence and to promote children's safety in the state. 

The testimony covered topics ranging from better emergency drills and security staffing to building design.

School resource officer Steven Whitehead told the panel of legislators Friday that the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School highlights how we aren't doing enough to prevent this kind of violence from occurring.

"It concerns me that if I can in by saying I am parent with a child in these classes," said Erin Stelma, who is a member of the National Rifle Association. "Then anyone with a lethal weapon can walk in."

Whitehead's fellow officer, an arms instructor, gave his personal take on having armed teachers, principals or security guards in school.

"Tactical shooting is different than shooting on a range," said Lt. David Burton, of the Waterford Police Department. "These are very fluid-type situations. What kind of backup am I doing as far as the training is involved? Is that annual training? Is that monthly training?"

A well-known children's advocacy group questions more police in schools.

"The national research on school resource officers and other an armed personnel and school violence is limited," said Sarah Esty, of the Connecticut Voices for Children. "And that evidence is also mixed in its results."

A number of people told the legislative task force that bulletproof glass isn't as effective as one might think, because in a crisis situation those windows can't be opened by people trying to escape a building.

Gun free zones were criticized by speakers Friday because it just tells a shooter this is an area where he or she are less likely to face an armed challenge.

Woodbury First Selectman Gerald Stomski gave testimony to the legislative task force about his friend Dawn Hochsprung, who was the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary, and died trying to protect her students.

"It's my belief that Dawn Hochsprung and her staff did everything right that day," he said.

The school safety panel said it wants to stay in touch with Stomski after he suggested several ways to make it harder for a shooter to pull right up to a school's front entrance, and greater access control to the building when someone is trying to get in.

"It's all about controlling access," Stomski said.

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