Jewish Schools Ramp Up Security After Newtown

Rampage Tugs at Heartstrings and Provides Wake-Up Call

First Day Back: A Newtown student peers out of a school bus. Schools were open for the first time in the Connecticut town since the deadly rampage on Friday.
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First Day Back: A Newtown student peers out of a school bus. Schools were open for the first time in the Connecticut town since the deadly rampage on Friday.

By JTA

Published December 18, 2012.
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Like many other mothers, Patti Weiss Levy’s heart broke when she heard about last Friday’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

The longtime Connecticut resident lives an hour away from Newtown, so she assumed she wouldn’t know anyone involved. But as details of the massacre began to emerge, Weiss Levy says she realized just how small Connecticut is.

“We later found out my daughter babysat for one of the children killed,” Weiss Levy told JTA. “And the drummer in my daughter’s band could not attend a concert that night because his sister was one of the teachers killed, too. They were the nicest people, and this whole thing is horrid, just unspeakable.”

As the funerals began Monday for the 20 children and six adults gunned down last Friday by 20-year-old Adam Lanzo, Jewish schools around the country grappled with how to discuss the tragedy appropriately with students and whether there were ways to improve security at their own schools.

Administration officials at the Bicultural Day School in Stamford, Conn., some 30 miles from Newtown, spent all of Monday combing the grounds with security experts, one faculty member told JTA. The entire staff arrived at the school early in the morning for a meeting about how to discuss the Newtown massacre with their students. This week, the staff’s main concern was to make sure their building had the best security system possible.

The school also had a personal connection to Newtown: A teacher at Bicultural is married to Rabbi Shaul Praver, who led the funeral service for one of the victims, 6-year-old Noah Pozner.

Around the country, parents of Jewish school students expressed concerns about security. At the Hillel Day School in Boca Raton, Fla., school officials said they received a torrent of emails from parents requesting that they update their security system and emergency procedures. Head of School Rabbi Samuel Levine said the school was considering its options.


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