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January 15, 2013

Salem parents concerned about school security

SALEM — When Barron School parent Chris Bamforth saw a stranger with a handgun strapped to his side at a school ice cream social, he immediately became concerned.

So did other parents, including one who followed the man, until the stranger suddenly disappeared.

“We had no idea who this person was,” Bamford said.

Bamford and his wife, Patricia Bamford, were among the 22 residents who asked questions or expressed their concerns at a public forum on school security last night.

The nearly two-hour forum at Salem High School was organized by school officials in wake of the fatal shootings of 26 people, including 20 young children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last month. Close to 100 people attended the Salem event.

The tragedy in Newtown is a perfect example of why security needs to be improved at Salem’s eight public schools, Bamford said.

Whether it’s installing electronic buzzers that lock doors at school entrances or putting in bulletproof glass, the district needs to take measures to make sure its schools are safe, he said.

“Something more needs to be done,” Bamford said. “We have to do something, we have to do it now.”

Before Bamford spoke, the crowd heard presentations from School Superintendent Michael Delahanty, fire Chief Kevin Breen, Deputy police Chief Shawn Patten and School Resource Officer Matthew Norcross. School Board Chairwoman Pamela Berry addressed the audience as well.

Breen, Patten and Norcross told of how their departments work in conjunction with the district to keep the schools safe. Delahanty said although it’s impossible to stop a tragedy such as the Sandy Hook shootings, the goal is minimize the danger.

Patten said his department has made recommendations to the school district on how security can be improved. One possibility is the installation of “panic buttons” at the schools, Delahanty said.

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