The following letter was sent home to parents of students in the Cinnaminson School District:
Dear Cinnaminson Parents/Guardians,
It is with an extremely heavy heart that I write this note regarding the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. As an educator, but more important, a father of two sons, an event like this shakes me to my core. I also realize that it touches our entire Cinnaminson community. Be assured that by working together we will cope with this tragedy.
As details continue to unfold, I want to assure you that your school district will continue to evaluate and re-evaluate all school security measures and to make sure that we are doing all that is reasonably possible to keep our students and staff safe.
This note is to provide some information and resources for you in discussing this event with your child/children. It is also a response to questions as to the measures that we have taken over the years to provide a secure learning environment for our young people.
Talking With Your Child/Children
Most important is to reassure your child/children that the adults in their lives are doing everything they can to make their home, school and neighborhood safe for them. We can reassure you that we are doing that in your schools. Our counselors and crisis counselors will be available in our schools this coming week and we encourage any students, staff or parents who would like to talk with someone to reach out to these individuals for help.
Other suggestions include:
1. Do not minimize your child’s feelings. Stress that schools are safe places. In fact they are more secure than ever before.
2. Encourage your child to report specific incidents (threats, talk of suicide, bullying) to you, a teacher, or the school principal.
3. Discuss the safety procedures that are in our schools. Explain that they are in place to assure his/her safety and the need to adhere to same.
4. Recognize behavior that may indicate your child is concerned about returning to school and seek help from your school counselor.
5. If you have questions, seek help from your school staff or a mental health professional.
School Safety and Security
Parents/guardians have asked questions in regard to the measures that the school district has taken to assure the safety and security of their children. This note is to also assure you that the Board of Education and Administration have incorporated the recommendations of the New Jersey Safer School Initiative and the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness in its school safety plans. In some cases we exceed these suggestions. As you are aware entry into our schools and offices is by magnetic card which is supplemented by a push button/monitoring system. Each of our classrooms has what is known as a “columbine” lock. Once a room door is closed it can only be opened from inside. A door key is required to gain entrance from outside. Staff and students are told NOT to open the door for ANYONE during a lock down. To the best of my knowledge Cinnaminson is the only district in the three (3) state area that has made such an investment in classroom security.
There is a Crisis Management Plan and a School Safety and Security Plan for each of our schools and offices. These have been developed with the assistance of our Township Police and Fire Departments. They are reviewed with staff at the start of each school year as well as through the year with revisions made when necessary. There is a Fire Drill and a Crisis Drill each month when students and/or staff are in the building. The Township Police are present and monitor all crisis drills for compliance. Over the last year we have also cooperated with our Township Police in their having a greater presence in all of our schools.
As part of its Capital Project Proposal, which was adopted in December 2011, the Board of Education plans to make changes in the entry, office and classroom areas for each of our schools as a safety and security measure. As you could expect there is a significant cost tied to the proposal. We are hoping that the state will release the necessary funds so that we can move these projects forward.
No matter the above, it is only with your diligence and involvement that we can continue to have safe schools for your daughters and sons. Quite frankly we cannot do it alone and your working with us is imperative in this most important matter.
As always thank you for your support of your Cinnaminson Schools and more important at this time, keep the families of Newtown in your thoughts and prayers.
Salvatore J. Illuzzi, Ph. D.
Superintendent of Schools