Mere weeks after the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., South Shore residents have teamed up to push for better security in local public schools and, ultimately, public schools across the nation
Duxbury resident Brian Stratton, president and founder of Citizens for Children’s Safety (CCS), was inspired to create the non-profit organization after the Dec. 14 shootings. Along with a number of Duxbury, Marshfield, Kingston and Plymouth residents, Stratton focused on the ultimate goal of requiring public schools to have a resource officer assigned to each school.
“Among concerned citizens, I found the common denominator was that people felt public schools didn’t have to be defenseless against attacks like these,” Stratton said. “If another attack like this happens, it will be one more time too many.”
Stratton, a local musician and record producer, reached out to Facebook contacts to gain support for the organization. Phase one, he said, is to increase citizen involvement and support to give the organization legitimacy. Once they have garnered enough support, they will formalize a petition to put before politicians.
As of now, the organization has about 400 supporters. In addition to gaining local support, Stratton is working on putting together a board of directors made up of local residents.
“We need to show politicians that this is not just a small underground movement,” Stratton said. “Everyone understands the need for [heightened security] and have been very open to the movement.”
Stratton said a major obstacle for developing this requirement is funding. The organization estimates that the cost per school for each resource officer would be similar to that of hiring an extra full time teacher.
“Our major concern is definitely funding, especially when we are already cutting the number of teachers in schools,” he said. “It’s not overwhelming, but it’s definitely challenging.”
Tim Heinstadt, lifelong Duxbury resident and business owner, said he decided to help Stratton spread the word about CCS because he believes more needs to be done to ensure students safety in the classroom and on campus.
“We need at least one person, if not multiple people, on campus at all times,” Heinstadt said. “We want to prevent someone from being able to freely walk around our schools.”
Heinstadt, who graduated from Duxbury High School in 2004, understands that there are loopholes in security at the schools. He said simply locking the doors is not enough to protect the students.
“There are no security cameras at the schools and only one resource officer,” he said. “If something were to happen at Chandler, the officer at the high school wouldn’t be there to prevent it.”
Stratton met with Marshfield Police Chief Phil Tavares to discuss the organization’s plans to move forward with the implementation of school resource officers. Tavares said Marshfield currently has one resource officer at the high school.
“We know that it would not be cheap to take on enough officers for each of the schools, but you can’t put a price on students’ safety,” Tavares said. “There isn’t one single solution that can prevent something from happening, but this can certainly help.”
Tavares said he believes parents also play a large role in preventing accidents from happening. He suggests that parents talk with their children about how school is going and keeping up with their activities on social media sites. In addition, Tavares said schools should be mandated to practice lockdown drills.
“I am always in favor of anything that promotes students’ safety,” he said. “There are a lot of things that can be done to increase safety and this is a good first step.”
Stratton met with state representative Jim Cantwell, representative elect Josh Cutler and State Senator Robert Hedlund to discuss the objectives of CCS. He said response from the politicians has been positive and believes they see the need for heightened security.
During school vacation week, Stratton met with town officials and other residents. He said the week off was a good time to move the organization forward, as the Newtown, Conn., incident was still fresh on people’s minds.
Looking forward, Heinstadt said the organization is looking for any type of support as they focus on getting the support of the governor and local politicians to help them move forward.
“So far the support is overwhelming,” he said. “The more people we have behind us, the better.”
Ultimately, Stratton said the organization strives to develop a law requiring public schools to have a full-time resource officer. He said he envisions the law taking many forms, including a ballot question for voters, a mandate for the town, or a requirement for the schools.The law firm of Walsh and Firnrohr of Duxbury will handle all the legalities as the organization moves forward.
“It’s a day by day thing,” Stratton said. “Right now it’s just chiseling away the stone, reaching out to people every day and gaining support.”