Milford schools maintain tight security measures

In the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida on Feb.14, as well as local social media threats, the Town of Milford continues to keep its school security procedures tight for its more than 6,000 students.

“We are all shaken by the recent school tragedies, including the terror in Parkland,” said Mayor Ben Blake. “As a dad and mayor, my first concern is the safety of our kids. What I can tell you is that our city and schools take security very seriously. Since Sandy Hook, we’ve reinvented our district’s emergency operations protocols and have invested mightily in our school security personnel, procedures, and infrastructure.”

A press release sent by the Crime Prevention Unit of the Milford Police Department on Feb. 28 said, explained, “In response to the information alleged in social media posts, text messages, and conversations that referenced threats to the safety of students and staff at Jonathan Law High School, a joint investigation commenced involving school and law enforcement officials. Members of the Jonathan Law High School Administration, Milford Police Departments Juvenile and Computer Crime Divisions and the Milford Public Schools have been collectively working together to address these concerns.”

“After countless hours of investigation,” stated the press release, “all claims have been disproved and found to be false, not a single claim has been substantiated. It has been determined that the information shared on social media was not based on fact.” The Crime prevention Unit encouraged, “Going forward, any student or parent who has first-hand knowledge that affects the safety and security of the school community is encouraged to report it to school administrators and the Milford Police Department. We will continue to monitor any safety and security concerns of our students, staff and parents as they arise.”

“Nothing has changed in the last two weeks because our safety policies have been set in place,” said Michael Devito, public information officer with Milford Police Department. “Over the last five years we have upgraded them and integrated a lot of security measures that have been in place; we do continue to tweak them. Our measures are that the Board of the Ed, the individual schools, the Police Department and our Civilian Safety Coordinator are all aware of our policies and we do enforce them and practice certain drills to reinforce them. Without disclosing what they are, we do practice certain drills (fire drills, lock down drills, and stay in place drills) to reinforce them as a team, our kids are aware of them all. When we do our drills we have the officers assigned to each school working with the area cars, working with Crime Prevention and working with the school systems so we are all familiar with our roles.”

Training is conducted annually with school employees, sessions are tailored to individual building needs, crisis drills are conducted in each school 11 times per academic year, debriefings are held following incidents at schools (as is information sharing with remaining schools) and school bus safety drills are also conducted each year. Significant infrastructure upgrades over the last five years have been made due to $3.5 million funded by multiple sources including the State of Connecticut, the City of Milford Capital Improvement Program and Milford’s Board of Education Budget.

Safety and security upgrades installed in all 14 schools include personnel/visitor access ID’s, access control, visitor management, communications, video surveillance, automated external defibrillators, go kits, and shared responsibility with partnerships (central office, fire & police departments).

“We have a comprehensive security posture here in Milford which consists of a lot of things, our infrastructure, our training, our operation plan and other things,” said Jeffrey Nielsen, School safety and security coordinator, who retired from the Milford Police Department in 2015. “As far as what we have currently in place with our plans and procedures, nothing is changing with those except that we are making sure people are refreshed on those and we are also encouraging our students, our staff, parents and community members to bring things forward that are of concern.”

“We are looking at programs, proactive things like Sandy Hook’s Promise - they have some really good programs, the Say Hello Program and the Say Something Program. A few of our schools have those programs in place now; the Say Something Program encourages kids to speak up and say something,” continued Nielsen. “We are looking to move this into our other schools along with some of the other programs that they offer because we think that they’re important. We met with a representative of the Sandy Hook Promise this week and are having conversations in regards to their programs.”

When asked of the possibilities of installing security doors/metal detectors Nielsen explained, “We take feedback from committees that meet individually within the schools and also district wide, we have partnerships with our police, fire, and health departments, also with our student transportation department - anyone who’s involved in a major incident - we all communicate and we communicate well here in Milford. We take feedback from parents as well so if the information is something we think is a direction we want to move forward based on feedback from all those involved, then those are the directions we go. We look at all the assessments of our buildings and feedback from those community partners and that formulates our plan as to where we go with infrastructure.”

“We have a vsitor management process in place for our buildings as well as a strategy for minimizing the number of doors that are used during the day and some other measures in place I really can’t talk specifics on,” said Nielsen. “We understand people have concerns and we ask that they reach out to me or to someone at the central office so we can answer any questions they may have.”