With parent's and student's emotions still raw only three short weeks after 20 children and 6 adults were killed in a shooting rampage at a CT elementary school, yesterday's report of an armed man attempting to gain entry at Hommocks Middle School sent shivers through the Mamaroneck community.
All schools in the Mamaroneck and Rye Neck School Districts were put on "lock-out" mode and afternoon/evening activities were canceled after a man carrying a gun in his waistband attempted to enter the school to retrieve belongings he said were left in the pool area. The man—who identified himself as working in the security field—was denied access by the campus supervisor at the entrance to the school. Police said he left without incident and made no threats. The Town of Mamaroneck Police are continuing to investigate the situation.
But, despite the district's best intentions, teachers and students at one school speculated about potential causes of the lock out—as police secured entrances to the school and an announcement was made over the loudspeaker—until it was almost time to go home.
Eli Russ, president of the Mamaroneck High School Red Cross Club and a senior, said, "I saw the police presence at the main entrance so I physically felt secure. But, nobody had any piece of official information from the school, including our teachers, who were just as concerned and confused as the students were."
An email went out to faculty explaining the situation shortly before the lock out ended and the last period of the day was concluded.
"I think everyone felt emotionally uneasy not just in part because our teachers didn't know what was going on, but also because every person's thoughts were flashing back to the school shooting in Sandy Hook, CT which occurred just three short weeks ago," he said.
District Superintendent Dr. Robert Shaps sent out a notification to parents last night as follows. A portion of the notice appears below:
The Town of Mamaroneck Police Department continues its investigation following up on leads and seeking to identify the individual who entered Hommocks Middle School earlier today with a purported gun. We are thankful that this individual, when approached and questioned by our brave campus supervisor, left quietly and that some of the immediate safety measures we have put in place since the Newtown tragedy (such as limiting school access; additional staff training and revised visiting protocol) were working today.
I met late this afternoon with our entire group of administrators from all six of our school buildings to discuss today’s events and reinforce our emergency procedures. Each of them spoke positively about the professionalism and responsiveness on the part of school staff members to secure our buildings and reassure our students.
In your effort to support our work, we appreciate your full cooperation in following instructions we provide. Each scenario calls for a different plan, and, as was underscored today, it is not always in the best interest of students and staff to start immediately dismissing students.
Dr. Weitzman plans to speak with all middle school students tomorrow about the incident that occurred today and will reassure the students that the adults in their life are there to help make sure they remain safe. As always, the counselors at all of our schools are available to speak with any parents who have concerns.
The police will have a visible presence at our schools throughout the day tomorrow. We are aware of the heightened sensitivity and emotion around school safety and will further our work to ensure that our immediate action steps are being followed consistently and consider some longer-term safety measures. I’ll be back in touch by day’s end tomorrow with any additional updates.
Dr. Robert I. Shaps
Superintendent of Schools