PEPPERELL -- Following a moment of silence for the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., the Board of Selectmen voted at their Monday meeting to support efforts on the part of law enforcement, the North Middlesex Regional and Nashoba Valley Technical High School departments and other groups to look into reasonable proposals to keep the schools safe.
The idea was proposed by Selectman Joseph Sergi, who asked his colleagues to consider a statement that the board is "in favor of supporting funding or security initiatives that are raised as part of (a security) assessment (on the part of the school)."
Selectman Michael Green said although he was deeply saddened by the events of the Newtown school shooting, he was concerned that such a statement would be too reactionary.
"What happened is not indicative of this country," he said.
The North Middlesex Regional School District, he added, is already in the process of taking action. Superintendent Joan Landers has issued a letter to parents throughout the district and is holding an informational meeting on Jan. 3. Green said he felt it would be more appropriate to gather feedback from the school before voting on a motion that might potentially go before Town Meeting.
"I do not in any way want to belittle what has happened. It's terrible. I can't even imagine what those people are going though," he said. "But I think we need to see what comes out of it as far as what our school is doing. Reacting and developing a policy or supporting a policy based on a horrible or most worst-case scenario, I'm not sure that's the appropriate action."
As a board, said Sergi, it is the responsibility of the selectmen to address the anxiety of the community. A way to do that would be to issue an affirmation that they are willing to collaborate with the school departments to fill gaps in funding for a reasonable security initiative. In previous conversations, Sergi said, members of the community had "questioned the commitment of the board to certain funding initiatives." Given the circumstances, he felt it was crucial to support this one.
"We have to show leadership as a board to the town, to the schools, to the community," he said.
Green said he was in support of reasonable initiatives but was concerned over the open-ended language.
"I am all for ... working and listening to what law enforcement and what our schools come up with, but when we say a reasonable proposal, that's a very open-ended term," said Green.
Sergi said he would support any proposals that were deemed necessary to "protect the children of the community."
"I would probably go to an override on that one," said Sergi.
Green said he wanted to approach the matter cautiously and make sure the requests were reasonable; even metal detectors in the school might not have stopped the incident from occurring.
"I have two children in the school system. Of course I want safe schools. I feel like we have safe schools," he said. But, he added, "If someone desires to get around measurements in place, they will find a way to do that."
Still, Green said, he did want to show support to the community for reasonable initiatives.
"It's going to be very reasonable just by the nature of it," said Sergi.
Police Chief David Scott said he felt that looking at security gaps would not be a knee-jerk reaction. He said he had brought up a similar conversation a year ago to the school's crisis-response team.
With the board's support, he said, "It makes me feel more comfortable about spending the time on an effort like that."