Increased security at Chippewa draws critics

By: Robert Guttersohn | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published February 6, 2013

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — The increased security at Chippewa Valley Schools following the December school shooting in Newtown, Conn., has gone smoothly for the most part, said Superintendent Ronald Roberts.

But the changes have upset a fraction of outspoken parents who call it an overreaction that causes anxiety among the younger children.

“There’s anxiety whenever your procedures change,” Roberts said. “They don’t have issues, as far as having security.”

In addition to hiring uniformed greeters to monitor school entrances, none of Chippewa’s schools now allow parents to come into the school building with their children during the beginning and end of the school day.

While most schools in the district already prohibited parents from doing so, some like Sequoyah Elementary still allowed parents to enter during those times, until the changes were implemented last month.

“It was causing congestion, as far as all the students entering and leaving,” said Diane Blain, the director of school and community relations. She said it became impossible to check the identification of parents or have the parents sign in when so many were entering at once.

The changes will be in place until the end of the school year, while the district is looking into installing a buzzer-entry system before the start of school in the fall.

“For the most part, parents have been complimentary toward the security procedures,” said Blain.

But there have been detractors. A small number of parents have emailed both district administrators and Board of Education members complaining of the changes, saying they create a barrier between them and their children during the school day.

Jesse Fairman, the parent of a Sequoyah Elementary school student, said in a email to the district — and forwarded to the media — that the changes were an overreaction.

“It was an isolated incident within another state, and it wasn’t a parent nor a student at that school,” Fairman said in the email, referencing the shooter in Newtown.

She went on to say that each child is different and that changing where they can and cannot meet their parents can disturb them.

“I found my child crying in the corner of my bedroom the night you sent home your letter of information,” she wrote. “He was upset that his dad would no longer be able to wait with him inside the school before he goes to class and that I, his mother, will no longer be able to wait for him in the same spot that I have been in since September.”

Fairman says the decision was made without parent input.

For that, the Board of Education proposed at its Jan. 28 meeting putting together a committee of parents to discuss security changes.

“Maybe our expectations compared to what they’re believing is too high or maybe it’s not high enough,” said board member Frank Bednard. “We can get some input from them and make sure we’re doing what our community expects. Maybe we’re not doing enough. Maybe we’re doing too much. This way, we’ll be able to gauge it better.”

Board member Andrew Patzert suggested holding off on a community meeting for a few months to allow parents to experience the upgraded security for a longer period. Patzert said waiting would give the board a more realistic reaction from the parents, since they will have acclimated to the changes.