Falmouth Public Schools Look to Upgrade Security in Light of Newtown Shootings

Falmouth Public Schools will request $45,000 from Falmouth Special Town Meeting in April to upgrade security measures in light of the school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, in December.

Superintendent Marc P. Dupuis said the schools plan to purchase buzzer systems, security cameras and monitors for Mullen-Hall, North Falmouth, Morse Pond, and Falmouth High School. The other three schools, East Falmouth, Teaticket, and Lawrence School, already have buzzer systems and security cameras.

Currently, the doors are unlocked at the four schools without buzzer systems during school hours. With the new systems, the doors would be open when students arrive in the morning and leave in the afternoon, but would be locked the rest of the day. Visitors would press a buzzer at the door and be identified by office personnel via video before entering.

Mr. Dupuis said they have investigated installing the security systems in the past, but “the issue was raised to a higher level in light of the incident in Connecticut,” referring to the school shootings in Newtown.

The Special Town Meeting warrant article is a request for $45,000, but Mr. Dupuis said he believes the cost estimates are closer to $35,000. The money would likely come from free cash, he said.

Since the Newtown shootings, Falmouth police officers have had a more visible presence in the schools. Officers stop at each of the schools at different times during the day to walk the halls and make their presence known and to provide a deterrent to anyone who would seek to enter the school. 

In the past year there have been two incidents in Falmouth that highlighted the need for more security in schools, Mr. Dupuis said.

A year ago at Falmouth High School, two boys were arrested for possession of an unloaded handgun in school after two girls overheard them talking about the gun in the hallway. A third boy was later summonsed to court for possession of the gun.

That incident led to Falmouth police assigning a full-time school resource officer to Falmouth High School, and, beginning in September, the addition of another full-time school resource officer at Lawrence School.

Then in April, a man was shot and killed on Broken Bow Lane in Teaticket, and while police searched for the suspect, Teaticket Elementary went into lockdown.

Mr. Dupuis said the schools and Falmouth police work well together to create a safe and secure environment. Since the Newtown shootings, Falmouth police officers have had a more visible presence in the schools. Officers stop at each of the schools at different times during the day to walk the halls and make their presence known and to provide a deterrent to anyone who would seek to enter the school.

But Mr. Dupuis said Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown had a security system that the gunman defeated to enter the school. “If someone has their mind set on getting in, I don’t think any system is perfect,” he said. “But it certainly is a deterrent and is an improvement.”

At a panel discussion about school safety in January some people raised concerns about increased anxiety levels with lockdown drills and buzzer systems at the schools.

Pediatrician and public health specialist Dr. Matthew Masiello from the Community Health Center of Cape Cod said there is no data that security measures prevent school shootings, but studies show that having a police officer in schools, lockdown drills, and secure doors do increase anxiety in children.

Mr. Dupuis said he has not heard from school staff or parents that students’ anxiety is raised by security measures or having police officers in schools.

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