This article originally appeared in The Newtown Bee and was written by Eliza Hallabeck. To view the original article, click here.
NEWTOWN, CT – District Director of Security Mark Pompano spoke about safety and security ahead of the 2016-17 school year.
Students and parents can report safety and security issues and concerns through Newtown’s Safe Schools Anonymous Tip Line, 203-270-4670, which rings in to the police department and is answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year, according to Mr Pompano.
“That line is not a replacement for 911,” Mr Pompano said. “I can’t stress that enough. If there is an imminent emergency you need to call 911.”
The anonymous tip line, Mr Pompano said, is for reporting anything from incidences of bullying to safety concerns to security concerns in the school, where the person reporting it may wish to remain anonymous. The dispatch center and the police have a protocol for handling calls to the anonymous tip line.
“So if it is something that needs immediate follow-up, they will dispatch an officer as appropriate,” said Mr Pompano.
If the anonymous incident is something that can be followed-up on the next school day, then he said a security officer or administrator will look into it then.
Newtown’s Safe Schools Anonymous Tip Line was created after a risk assessment conducted by John Jay College of Criminal Justice following the events of 12/14 recommended a tip line, among other items. After using a tip line through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the district’s Security Committee discussed the need for a local anonymous tip line, with input from the Board of Education, police department, and the Newtown Emergency Communications Center. The tip line went live for the start of the 2014-15 school year.
Mr Pompano also said use of an anonymous alert app was implemented last school year at Newtown High School and Newtown Middle School.
“It’s a free download of this app,” said Mr Pompano. “The company made the initial donation… It’s the Anonymous Alerts app.”
The app works on both Android and Apple devices, according to Mr Pompano.
“This app basically replaces the old fashion anonymous tip box on the main office desk or counter where kids used to slide in a note to alert administration to concerns they may have… This is just an electronic version of that,” said Mr Pompano.
The middle school had great success using the app last year, according to Mr Pompano. Reed Intermediate School or elementary school parents and students could also download the app to report incidences or concerns, Mr Pompano said, adding that those reports through the app would not be ignored.
Again, Mr Pompano stressed the app is not a replacement for calling 911.
“And the app is only monitored during basic school hours, 7 am to 2 pm,” Mr Pompano said.
The Raptor Visitor Management System — which was jointly donated to the district by Raptor and the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) for the 2015-16 school year — will also continue to be used for the next school year.
“It is basically a visitor management system,” Mr Pompano explained. “At the end of the day it keeps track of who is in the building, when they leave the building, and when a person’s ID is scanned it checks the 50-state sex offender database.”
Things like criminal records are not checked through the system, according to Mr Pompano.
“It’s the expectation that all persons entering a school building during the regular school hours will be required to present a photo, a government-issued ID,” said Mr Pompano.
The ID will be scanned the first time a person enters a school building, but for each consecutive visit they will still be asked to present ID without the need for a scan.
“The level of overall security will be the same as it was last year. We have the same number of personnel, the same shift-hours of coverage, as well as there will continue to be an armed security presence in each of the schools during, at least, regular school hours,” said Mr Pompano.
Especially for parents new to the district, Mr Pompano recommends allowing a little extra time when visiting a school, particularly if dropping off a student at the start or picking up at the end of the school day, for logging in to the visitor management system.
Each school will continue to conduct emergency response drills during the school year, according to Mr Pompano. A number of drills will be held near the start of the school year.
“We want staff and students to be comfortable with the procedures and to at least have some kind of knowledge of what is expected of them during these drills,” said Mr Pompano.
Parents can also ask when visiting the schools for a sheet that describes where they should go in the event of a lock-in, lock-down, or an evacuation is called.
“Those are available at all the welcome desks at the schools when they sign in with their ID,” said Mr Pompano.
If parents ever have a concern or suggestions about security or safety in the district, Mr Pompano said he can be reached directly at 203-270-6121.