|Editor's note: The following letter was released by School Committee Chair Scott Chapman in the wake of recent school violence throughout the nation.|
Dear Parents and Guardians:
The incidents of school violence in the past few weeks have given us pause and concern regarding the ongoing challenge of safety in our schools. The Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School Committee prides itself on the actions that our Committee and the Superintendent of Schools have taken over the past several years to insure a more secure school environment.
School safety reached the front page of our consciousness in the 1990's as a result of many school shootings. Safety was challenged and questioned after the terrorist acts of September 11, 2001. These events only strengthen our commitment as a local board to put forth our best efforts in instituting school safety plans and activities.
Over the past few years this District has been the beneficiary of ongoing federal grant monies from the Department of Homeland Security earmarked for school safety.
Utilizing that money in addition to our own resources we have conducted a variety of activities relative to school safety. Some of these activities are "behind closed doors" for obvious reasons.
Some of these activities are public: limited access to buildings throughout the district, installation of cameras at the high school, staff identification badges, trainings for staff and administrators on school safety, comprehensive school safety audits, and regular meetings and an established partnership with local law enforcement and public safety personnel in both the Town of Hampden and the Town of Wilbraham.
On Monday, October 2, 2006, in response to the most recent tragic incident, the Superintendent met with the building principals to highlight and reinforce the District's current safety policies and activities.
At my direction the School Committee convened Executive Session on October 10, 2006, for the purposes of evaluating current safety plans and instituting changes if necessary as a response to these recent tragic events.
As each year has passed our District has made improvements in the area of school safety. However, only an uninformed person would suggest that there is no vulnerability in our District. Absent a "police state" in our schools, no security measure is 100% absolute, but that does not mean we do not continue to refine and improve on this task. We have made this a top priority for our School Committee and the Superintendent.
We continue to take our duty and responsibility for school safety very seriously. We reach out to parents of children in our District to be partners with us in our continuing commitment to school safety and welcome your suggestions on this most important topic.
Very truly yours,
Scott R. Chapman,
Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School Committee