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Keeping Vt. children safe at school - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Keeping Vt. children safe at school

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CAMBRIDGE, Vt. -

Darcy Bidwell says there's no such thing as "too much security" when it comes to the safety of her child.

"I'd rather know my kid's safe than believe that it's small-town Vermont. Vermont's not that small anymore," Bidwell said.

School districts throughout Vermont strive to balance student safety without becoming a police state.

Cameras and entrance buzzer systems are a few of the safety measures some schools have put in place, but the question some parents want to know: when do these security systems go too far?

"I don't know about our community. I think overall it would make me feel safer, but I don't know how practical it will be," said Carrie Ferguson, a parent.

Cambridge Elementary School is one of many schools in Vermont with a buzzer system. Visitors must ring administrators in order to get access to the school. They are "buzzed" in once they are identified. But this system is only in place if a threat has been determined and there's a legitimate emergency lockdown.

School Superintendent Joe Ciccilo, who oversees Cambridge Elementary, says law enforcement officials have advised it's unnecessary to use the system on a daily basis and staff is trained to react to threatening situations.

"It's like an insurance policy; you're minimizing risk," Winton Goodrich said.

But Goodrich says systems should be operating before there's a threat. He sits on the Vermont School Crisis Planning Team and points to tragedies like the Sandy Hook school shooting last year and the one in Essex in 2006 as reasons for beefing up security.

"You're mitigating the circumstances that could be more dangerous and that's one of many steps that would enable a school system and parents to know that their children are safe in school," Goodrich said.

Parents are mixed on whether Vermont schools need more security.

"You know, we live here for a reason. We leave our keys in our cars. We don't lock our houses. So, I don't know," Ferguson said.

The School Crisis Planning Team says nearly 100 percent of the schools in Vermont with buzzer systems use them, and while no security system is fool-proof, Goodrich says it does help prevent events before they happen. And staff training is crucial.

"If someone wants to check out a school and wants to make that a target, they're gonna do some surveillance. And if they find that it's free access into the school, they could be in the school before anyone could lock it down," Goodrich said.

The School Crisis Planning Team says it's important to realize school violence could happen in any town, big or small. And for parents like Darcy Bidwell, you can never do too much to protect kids.

"I'd rather be safe than sorry," she said.

The Colchester School District has a buzzer system in every school and they are used on a daily basis. Essex Elementary did have the system installed but stopped using it until recently. Other schools have also focused on cameras inside and outside of the school. So, it does vary from school to school, but it's about creating a safe environment.

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