Parent critical of Nashua school securityBy SIMON RIOS
Union Leader Correspondent
December 15. 2012 11:59PM
NASHUA - Darlene Cartier's 6-year-old is a first-grader at Ledge Street Elementary. Walking him home from school Friday, she gasped at the news of the Connecticut shooting that left dozens dead.
Because Ledge Street and other Nashua schools keep main entrances open, Cartier wondered what's to prevent something from happening here.
"You have a rush of kids walking out, and you have (adults) walking in," she said. "It's not very secure at all, so I make sure that I'm right here."
She said since the doors are Ledge St. aren't kept locked, she's never late to pick her son up from school.
The family recently moved to Nashua from Epsom, where the schools have tighter security, Cartier said. "You have to show them your ID at the glass, and you have to prove that you are who you say you are. In this school, you can just walk right in."
Cartier wants a school official to guard the entrance and for anyone who enters to have to show ID.
Cartier also called for the schools to better communicate with the parents.
Unlike districts where doors are kept locked throughout the day, including schools in Bedford and Epsom, Nashua' elementary school doors are kept open, Superintendent Mark Conrad acknowledged. The district is finalizing a request for proposal for security upgrades at the city's elementary and middle schools. Starting next school year, main entrances will be locked during the day, requiring visitors to be buzzed in.
Although Friday's event won't expedite the planned security upgrades, Conrad said, the district will use it as an opportunity to further review security procedures.
"There have been so many tragic incidents like this in schools over time that we are . . . continuously re-evaluating the emergency response procedures and security systems," he said.
In the case of an attacker, Conrad said, a school would likely be locked down, keeping children in place and away from windows and doors.
The 1999 shooting in Columbine, Colo., was a wakeup call for districts, highlighting the importance of having trained staff and emergency response plans. But Conrad noted that Friday's incident was unusual because the attacker was not a student, unlike the majority of violent perpetrators at schools.
Because of this, he said, the most important precaution is to have a positive school climate where students and adults talk with one another. "I can't overemphasize the importance of relationships in school communities in preventing school violence as a more critical piece than relying on technology or locks."
Jenn Morton is the mother of a sixth-grader and a third-grader in Nashua, both of whom have been homeschooled. She said boosting security at schools is like "putting a Band-Aid on a hemorrhaging artery."
"We can do all the security in the world, but if there are crazy people with guns, they're going to get in somehow. It seems like we're focusing the wrong issue."
Morton pointed out that the doors were locked at the Newtown, Conn., school, but it didn't prevent the massacre. The real discussions are about mental health and gun control, she said, not merely boosting security.
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Simon Rios may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.