The unthinkable happened yet again. This time, the victims were the most vulnerable members of our society. Children were the target of a madman's rampage – the shooting and killing of 20 innocent kids and six adults at Sandy
Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.
The shooter apparently walked through a security door, spraying bullets into two classrooms.
These unfathomable crimes are as ruthless as terrorist acts. Our schools have become shooting galleries, a situation that makes us all question whether our own children are safe when they are in school.
In a timely response to the deadly events in Connecticut, a letter from Superintendent Jeffrey Felix went out reassuring Coronado Unified School District parents that CUSD and local police have stepped up security at all community campuses.
“As a result of this tragedy, the Coronado Police Department has added additional officers to patrol the exteriors of all school buildings. Police will not enter the buildings unless asked to do so,” read the mass email.
We hope that locked gates and a steady police presence will deter anyone from breaching campus safety measures and to cause harm to any of our children. However, is this enough to keep our children safe in school?
As parents, is there anything we can do to help our schools, teachers, and staff be safe? The scary answer – in an extreme situation, one mom says, probably not.
Parents Talk sends prayers to all who are grieving during this awful time, and with heavy hearts discusses how as a community we can come together to help avoid a tragedy like this happening in our small town.
Tonia Accetta: I have been fearful of an event like this since the incident in Russia involving the Chechen rebels. That horrific event took place in September 2004; hundreds died and hundreds more were injured, most of them children. As a mother, I store these horrors at the back of my mind, but they never truly leave me. Every night that I get to hold my children tight, my thoughts go out to any mother that has experienced the tragedy of losing their child. I appreciate Dr. Felix and the local police notifying us and I appreciate that they took some action upon hearing of these events in Connecticut, but having said that I would like to see a secure campus where the entrance to the school is more controlled.
Tam Dorow: I don't think anyone is safe anywhere, schools, places-of-worship, shopping malls, public meetings, restaurants, or movie theaters. These massacres are violent, random and very quickly executed.
I appreciate Dr Felix's timely communication. However, I assume and hope all American schools are like Coronado's and Sandy Hook Elementary School, up-to-date on security measures, and doing their best to provide a safe and pleasant environment for our children. I don't think we can infer there was more Sandy Hook Elementary School could have done to prevent this tragedy. I don't think there is that much more our schools can do to prevent these violent episodes short of providing a fortress with armored guards, metal detectors and X-ray machines. Even with those restrictive measures, I don't think we could prevent a person intent on destruction from overcoming security obstacles.
Kelly Dunbar: Being a military family in a high profile community such as Coronado, we have thoroughly investigated our children's safety and security concerns that come with a post 9/11 and post-bin Laden raid environment. We are comforted knowing that security issues and the safety of our children in schools have been and continue to be addressed by the local school board and local authorities.
Our daughters attend Christ Church Day School. There the teachers and staff of both the church and school are trained to be vigilant and aware of what occurs on campus and around the campus. Ongoing and previously implemented campus improvements have increased the security of our children and the Action Plans in place for all types of emergencies are under constant review. I feel that our Coronado community benefits from the presence of military families who have an increased sensitivity to their own security posture and have an acute awareness of their surroundings and are attentive to details and are attuned to noticing and reporting the smallest of differences.
I do not consider our military family members in the community as first responders. That is the role of our professional authorities. However, service members are trained in a broad base of first responder-like common capabilities (communications, medical triage and CPR, physical security, firefighting, etc.) that can easily, and likely very seamlessly, be integrated into our local authorities' response plans as a significant increase in capable volunteer manpower. I feel fortunate to be part of such a wonderful community that offers such a great environment to raise our children; we are blessed to call Coronado home!
Suzette Valle: My heart goes out to everyone touched by the senseless violence that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary. The unspeakable school tragedies and shooting rampages in public areas have occurred all too frequently over the last few years, and makes them seem less random each time.
The reality is, as parents, we don't have much control over how security is
handled on school campuses. However, I prefer that gates at our local schools remain locked at all times except when release times and other mass-exodus periods require them to be unlocked. Perhaps it would also help us feel more secure if patrol cars or police were seen making their rounds around campuses more frequently during the entire school day.
Living in a virtual bubble in Coronado is a blessing. However, we cannot deny that what happened in Connecticut also can happen in our quaint island city. As parents, what we can do is observe procedures to get on- and off-campus, and tell our children to help school staff by following the rules to keep all of us safe.
Tonia Accetta is a stay-at-home mom of a teenage boy and a preteen girl. She moved to Coronado in 2002 with her husband of 15 years.
Tam Dorow, who emigrated from Vietnam when she was 10. She worked at all of the Big 3 U.S. car companies and has been a stay-at-home mom of two for the last 10 years.
Kelly Dunbar is a military veteran and spouse who has lived in Coronado for seven years. She has three children who attend elementary school, junior kindergarten and preschool.
Suzette Valle is a 20-year Coronado resident who was recognized by Time Warner as one of the local “50 Best Moms” in 2006. She has appeared on the Dr. Phil Show and blogs at MamarazziKnowsBest.com.