Westport Parents Say Getting Inside Schools Too Easy

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A parent of a student at Westport's Coleytown Elementary School told school officials he had been able to gain access into the school through unlocked doors on several occasions over the past month. Photo Credit: File: Vanessa Inzitari

WESTPORT, Conn. – School security in Westport isn’t as tight as district administrators might think, according to parents who say they have uncovered security flaws at their children’s schools in the month since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown.

Jon Zames, who has a son at Coleytown Elementary, said that over the past month, he has on several occasions gained access into the school through unlocked doors.

“Every morning, I drop my 6-year-old son off at Coleytown and every afternoon I pick him up,” Zames told members of the Board of Education at its meeting Monday. “Every day since Sandy Hook, I’ve checked entrances. I’ve been able to access three entrances, four entrances every morning and have never once been stopped.”

When picking up his son from the school cafeteria in the afternoon, Zames said both doors to the cafeteria have been left open, allowing anyone off the street to walk in.

Since the Newtown tragedy, the Westport Board of Education has been approved to hire a firm to conduct a school security audit. The audit will analyze security measures in place at each of the town’s schools. At the end of the audit, the district will receive recommendations on how to beef up security at the schools.

Like Zames, parent Neil Phillips said he has easily gained access to Kings Highway School, which his two kindergartners attend.

“It’s disgusting how easy it is to walk into that school and no one looks, no one checks,” Phillips said.

He told the board that it should, in addition to the security audit, reach out to parents for recommendations, because many parents are at the schools on a daily basis and know how to get into the schools.

Parent Robert Cantor suggested having plainclothes officers in every school. This could be paid for if the town raised the commercial property tax by 1 percent, Cantor said. The idea of having police officers in schools was one several readers of The Westport Daily Voice supported days after the Sandy Hook shooting.

Another suggestion from Cantor was to arm teachers with long-distance mace. The police department could train teachers on how to use it, he said. 

Jane Raba, who has a son at Saugatuck Elementary, said she would like the district to implement security measures found at many private and urban schools, such as the installation of blast-proof windows. She also supports having guards or police officers in the schools, and like Phillips, urged the district to work with parents when it comes time to make security changes.

Board members did not comment on security at the meeting. Instead, board Chairwoman Elaine Whitney said the board will discuss plans to enhance school security with the community after the audit.

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Lets hope nothing happens while the audits are being conducted, then the review period, the budget/funding process and then the rollout period...

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