A serious situation at Weston High School last week should serve as a serious wake-up call. The police, the schools, and town officials need to take stock and figure out how to better work together.
A note was found in a school hallway threatening violence — Sandy Hook-like violence. And yet it seems it took nearly an hour before a “lockdown” was ordered. Another hour or so passed before it was decided to shepherd the kids out of the school. And during this time, hundreds of teenagers, hyper-aware of the very real terror that was recently visited upon schoolchildren just a few towns over, sat huddled in classrooms with very little information and a whole lot of fear and anxiety. Communication to the classrooms should have been better. The kids and the teachers deserve that.
But the real breakdown in communication seems to have been between the schools and the police and the first selectman. While police have instant jurisdiction over a potential crime and crime scene, if it’s happening in a school, administrators have to be involved in the decision-making process and the implementation of any plan of action. If it’s something that is happening in a public place, public officials need to be kept in the loop so they can manage that end of it.
In this day of instant communication — kids were texting their parents almost immediately about the bare facts they were somehow privy to — parents wanted information, and they wanted it pronto. Apparently the Internet system at the high school was overloaded to the point that messages could not be sent in a timely fashion to parents. That would have been a perfect way to involve the first selectman, who has proven to be a good communicator in times of crisis, and who has access to the town’s CodeRed messaging system.
Finger-pointing is never constructive, but realizing mistakes were made and exploring ways to avoid them in the future can be. Let’s hope that exploration happens immediately, so that a serious situation doesn’t ever become a tragic one.