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District: Document Found at Saxe Led to Lockdown, Supervised Dismissal

New Canaan Public Schools sent an email to parents late Friday saying that details of what was said in the document cannot be released, as police continue to investigate.

Friday, March 15

Update 9:56 p.m.

The district says that it cannot release details of what police have called the "general" threat that led to a lockdown of Saxe Middle School Thursday and police-supervised dismissal, as bomb squads and a SWAT team arrived at the Farm Road facility.

At the same time, the district says, a "document found in the school by an adult" led to what happened.

"Because it was considered to be of a potentially risky or threatening nature, the administration contacted the police," the email said (full text below). "The details of the document are not being released as they are a matter for investigation; however, what is important to emphasize is that the police examined the document and assessed that there was no current or imminent risk."

Here's the full text of the email, sent to New Canaan Public Schools parents shortly after 9:30 p.m. Friday:

As we come to the end of the day, we wanted to let you know that the school day at Saxe went well. The environment was calm and positive and attendance was good. Mr. Macedo sent a mid-day and end of week message to the Saxe parent community. He and his team have and will continue to reach out to and speak with any parent who has a question or information to share. The most important message we hope parents have received during this time is that student safety is our first priority and focus. During and immediately after an event our attention must be on the needs of the students and school. When we can provide more information or details we take that opportunity, which is the intent of this update.

Due to the constraints of an ongoing investigation, this is an especially challenging situation regarding parent communication. We appreciate the desire for detailed information and to that end we are working hard to be as communicative as possible. When details are not being provided it is not because we are trying to hold back information but rather it is because we need to ensure that the police can conduct an effective investigation.

At this time I can share that the events yesterday were initiated because of a document found in the school by an adult. Because it was considered to be of a potentially risky or threatening nature, the administration contacted the police . The details of the document are not being released as they are a matter for investigation; however, what is important to emphasize is that the police examined the document and assessed that there was no current or imminent risk. They also determined, and we concurred, that for overall safety and security a check of the school and grounds was appropriate. As a result, additional NCPD and emergency responders were called to assist. As we learned, the level of their response – including their equipment and the use of dogs- is standard to any situation to which they respond. It is not a measure of the level of threat in that moment but is indicative of their role as emergency responders. We are grateful to have such resources available to us.

The teachers and staff used the district crisis plan to guide them-which in the moment helped maintain a controlled environment and allowed for supervised dismissals- a step that the police determined was both safe and important in order to be able to do a thorough check of the school. Because everyone cooperated and followed protocol, the NCPD and the special response team members concluded by early evening that the school was safe and secure. We maintained officers at the school overnight and today to provide for additional follow up and support.

I understand and share your concern for the well- being of each and every student. Every decision we make has student safety at its core and we will continue to do all in our power to keep our schools safe, secure and caring. We continue to cooperate with the police as they investigate this situation as part of our safety measures. Thank you for your understanding and should you have questions or concerns about your child or for the school, we invite you to call as personal connections are important to us and to school safety.

Thursday, March 14

Update 8:44 p.m.

District officials Thursday evening sent an email to public schools parents saying that a staffer at Saxe Middle School "found information inside the school" that was thought to be "potentially threatening."

It isn't clear what that information was. Police could not immediately be reached for comment.

Following a New Canaan police investigation and precautionary lockdown, officials say there's no threat.

Here's the full body of the email:

Early this afternoon a staff member at Saxe Middle School found information inside of the school that was considered to be of a potentially threatening nature. The New Canaan Police Department was contacted and immediately responded to the school to conduct an investigation. The school was placed into a precautionary lockdown and, as the police determined there was no current or imminent threat, students were released through a controlled and supervised dismissal.  At the same time, consistent with district protocol, the other school administrators were notified and responded with precautionary procedures. New Canaan Police Officers as well as other outside police resources searched the school and campus and determined it to be secure and safe. Police officers will be on the Saxe Campus overnight to insure the school remains secure. Classes will go on as scheduled tomorrow with an additional reassuring police presence on the school campuses.  We are thankful for the cooperation of the community and for the ongoing collaboration of law enforcement and the schools. 

And here's an email that went out specifically to Saxe parents with information from principal Greg Macedo:

Saxe Parents,
As you are aware, our students and staff were safely dismissed today while a local police investigation was conducted.  I have copied below the "talking points" that our staff has in place to receive our students back tomorrow.  I will be meeting with faculty in the morning to help de-brief on today's event.  My expectation is that our students will quickly adopt the "back to normal" approach that they will receive tomorrow without missing the point that any concerns for our collective safety will always be taken seriously.  Please contact us if you would like us to provide any additional support to you child.
Sincerely,
Greg Macedo
(talking points below)

Guidance to teachers…

Our response to this incident and our response to the students, as they experience this incident, can help them cope with and manage their feelings and emotions.

  • Within the context of the classroom it is important to be supportive and affirm what the students are experiencing while still maintaining the learning environment.  You may find that you need to spend a few minutes addressing concerns if students initiate discussion.  It is important to limit the amount of time spent in discussion and return to the learning environment.
  • Concerns may arise during class and it is important to remain factual in response to questions and validate student’s feelings by acknowledging that a police investigation has occurred and their feelings are justified.   You can reinforce that the New Canaan Police Department assured us that our students and staff were safe yesterday afternoon and remain safe today.
  • If you do observe a student who seems to have difficulty coping or who needs to talk outside of the classroom, please inform the guidance counselor as soon as you can.  
  • If you hear of any information that may be valuable, please consult with an administrator.  Usually in situations such as this one, other students have information that may be relevant.
  • Since this is a police matter, and in light of the recent school violence in Newtown, using humor to cope with a situation is not appropriate.  Threatening gestures or language will be taken seriously.
  • Below is a sample response that you may want to refer to, if the need arises. 

“There was a police investigation at Saxe yesterday afternoon.  For obvious reasons, we do not have specific details to share with you.  Each person at Saxe is going to be experiencing this incident in their own way.  Some of you may feel confused, curious, angry, upset or you may be a bystander who doesn’t feel a part of this concern at all.  You may be wondering what the next step is going to be or how to respond to others.  All of these feelings are completely normal.  No two people will experience the same emotions and it’s important to understand that depending on your previous experiences, you may experience more or less of an emotional reaction.  Please know that in addition to your family and friends there are adults in the school that are here to help and provide you with support.  These people are your guidance counselor, administrator, social worker, school psychologist, nurse or teacher.”  

Update 3:44 p.m.

A small group of students remains inside Saxe Middle School Thursday afternoon, but those children are safe, according to police.

Capt. Leon Krolikowski told New Canaan Patch that police received a general threat at about 1:40 p.m. Thursday, the 3-month anniversary of the school shooting in Newtown.

No details of the threat are being released, as police are still investigating. A New Canan SWAT team and bomb squads from Stamford and the state could be seen on the Saxe campus, sweeping the school with K-9 units.

Krolikowski said that police will be present at all New Canaan schools Friday.

Krolikowski said students were released Thursday on a different schedule from normal.

“There was a modified dismissal,” Krolikowski said.

Asked about the students still in the school, Krolikowski said: “We are on scene, so we are not worried about their safety.”

Update 3:22 p.m.

The New Canaan Police Department SWAT team has arrived on scene.

One officer from the department is manually controlling traffic at the corner of South Avenue and Farm Road.

Original Story

New Canaan police are conducting an investigation at Saxe Middle School and are overseeing student dismissals Thursday, according to an email that went out to parents from the district this afternoon.

“All students and staff are safe,” the email said.

It isn’t clear what the investigation involves or what prompted it. Police were not immediately available for comment.

The district said it will provide more information as it becomes available.

New Canaan Patch will update this story as that information comes in.

Great Good March 17, 2013 at 11:54 AM
In reality, in neighboring communities, it is the towns that pay for the Kids in Crisis program, not the Boards of Education. Ridgefield is looking to expand the program to their two middle schools. It is important that Teen Talk continues to provide services to this community and that they maintain their confidentiality and independence from the schools. This is precisely why this program should continue to be funded by the town, not the schools or privately. Why was funding to the Kids in Crisis program cut? It has been said and Judy Neville mentioned at the Board of Finance meeting that Health and Human Services, which oversees this budget, was told to choose between having a nurse full time or that program. Let's be clear, the dollars for both of those items did not match up, a larger cut was made to Kids in Crisis. If the full time nurse at Vine Cottage is being funded by "the neighbor's tax dollars" as mentioned in a comment above, this should be no different. Does this nurse serve as large a percentage of the community as Teen Talk? Why does one service have to be pitted against another? Both funding requests are for the greater good of this community.
Canaanite March 18, 2013 at 12:31 AM
It doesn't sound to me like the kids were evacuated with the urgency that I would feel if I had known about this as it was happening - I don't know, so maybe I am wrong. The article states something about the fact that by "early evening" the school was secure. (Which means that until then, it well may not have been). And it states there was "supervised dismissal" in a "controlled environment". What does this mean exactly? Were all the kids evacuated immediately, as during a firedrill? How could they have allowed certain students to stay inside? The very nature of a "threat" is an implied immediate risk to personal safety . . . therefore, in my view, all the kids should have been quickly evacuated, immediately and removed far from the area . . . No one could have known at that point that things would be ok - the police wouldn't have been there if so. Yes, it's frightening to walk past police with guns . . . but very necessary in an emergency such as this. It's far more frightening to be face to face with immediate harm, as could have potentially happened in the case of a credible threat. So, yes, thank God the police got there (with their machine guns!) and were prepared to face the threat . . . But it sounds like they took their sweet time getting everyone out. I hope I am wrong.
Canaanite March 18, 2013 at 12:33 AM
Exactly, Tom!
Local Parent March 18, 2013 at 02:51 AM
While some children were calmly aware of the situation, others were huddled in a corner of the classroom the whole time...yet that has fact has not been clearly communicated to parents. Some of us found out from our children. Talking points went out to teachers...no mention of that. Why weren't parents explicitly told?
woah, man March 18, 2013 at 03:39 AM
Local parent- the counselors at the high school at every focused on the college admission process and unfortunately, from what I understand, many kids do not access them the same way they do the teen talk person. Ed is apparently a real part of the students community and thus, a comfortable and trusted ally for the teens who seek his help

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