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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“Our school building is on the Jewish federation campus, so you would have to pass through security,” Levine said Monday. “But that doesn’t mean that if someone wanted to get on campus, they couldn’t. We’re sitting down with campus security this afternoon to review our security procedures and drills and see if there are any changes we can make.”

David Finell, head of school at the Rockwern Academy in Cincinnati, said the shooting generated a new sense of urgency to review security precautions.

“When you have this type of tragedy, it makes people revisit their procedures,” Finell said. “We run plenty of emergency drills, but after this we are going to start having more and we’re going to implement some new security changes, though I can’t share what they are right now.”

When it came to talking with students, Jewish administrators took different approaches to discussing the Newtown shooting. The question was how to talk to students in an effective and appropriate way while also taking care not to alarm younger students unnecessarily. Ramaz, a Modern Orthodox school in New York, ran an extensive program for middle and high school students and made faculty members available to speak with anyone who requested it. Ramaz did not provide the program for younger children.

“A lot of our students seem to have been taken with the tragic events, so we encouraged feelings of sympathy for the victims and their families, and made sure the students felt our school was safe,” said Rabbi Paul Shaviv, noting that teachers were prepared to talk to the younger children if they asked questions.

Boca’s Hillel School addressed the tragedy in a morning assembly for the middle school and dispatched school psychologists to talk to the lower grades.

“We need to be sensitive to the younger children,” Levine said. “I’m sure there was plenty of discussion about this over the Shabbos table, and there were probably kids present.”


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