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.
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.

Roy A. Abramowitz March 14, 2013 at 09:36 PM
Thank you to our first responders. Thank God our kids and educators are safe.
Michelle O. March 14, 2013 at 11:15 PM
open letter to administrators: I DO appreciate all the updates, and in light of all the events of the last three months, I am sure you can understand that anything of this nature can be quite upsetting to the children and to their parents. The fact that my son had to leave school surrounded by dogs and guns is something that we should all find very disturbing, regardless of how safe they were. Given this fact, I am upset and frustrated by the lack of transparency about the nature of the threat. I say this because I have to play the mind game of stopping myself from speculating what actually happened. I, and other parents, are asking ourselves, "why wasn't the school evacuated right away if there was a threat?" "why weren't the elementary schools put on a yellow alert as well?" "Why were elementary children allowed to continue to be outside during this event?" I tell myself, and others, to stop asking until we actually know the facts, but it is difficult to do this. And because of the lack of transparency, I am loathe to send any of my children to school tomorrow. I, as a parent, am not being allowed to make informed decisions for my own children, and I am finding that very difficult. I appreciated your considering these. I also appreciate you, and your staff, and how amazing you are in creating a safe and calm environment for my children during this event. I am always amazed by how far you are all willing to go for our children. Thanks Michelle O
Matt March 15, 2013 at 12:04 AM
As a parent of 5 kids myself, I can understand your frustration, but I also understand the authorities' need to keep information confidential if laws were broken and there is an ongoing investigation. We need to trust the first responders and administrators to make the decisions we pay them to make. Our demands in this country of having immediate information because we can due to technology, often causes more misinformation and sometimes chaos. Consider the enormous amount of misinformation that was communicated on December 14th and the horrendous fact that the Sandy Hook principal's husband was informed of her tragic death by one of the students in his classroom who received the information via social networking. I respect your choice to keep your children home if you do not feel you have enough information about the incident to feel comfortable, but I understand that the police and school officials are doing their jobs the way they were trained to do and in some areas required to by law.
Michelle O. March 15, 2013 at 02:00 AM
thank you M Joseph, I do respect the need to keep things confidential for the police to conduct an investigation, and to prevent misinformation leaking and harming anyone who may be involved. Logically I know that the administrators do not want another sandy hook on their hands. The people whom I contact were quick to respond and very responsible with what they said. I can't say anything will put my mind at ease, the thought that my 11 yr old son had to walk by machine guns and dogs to get on a bus today makes me seriously ill, but that is the world we live in, i suppose. I appreciate the first responders and the schools for all that they do.
Tom March 15, 2013 at 02:55 PM
I am with you 100% Michelle! I can't believe that the school district would take the time to write such a long email that contained absolutely none of the pertinent information that I need as a parent to make an informed decision. It is my decision as to how safe I feel my child is in the custody of the state. I don't surrender my child to the state so "willy nilly". Perhaps it is the hippy in me that has me questioning authority. I will never stop questioning authority. I don't blindly accept that because the state says they are safe that they are safe. It's my child and my decision period!
Cobie Graber March 15, 2013 at 05:24 PM
Ironic that we are cutting access to mental health counselors in light of the Newtown tragedy and scares like this one. No one at the BOF meeting could explain why Kids in Crisis is getting rid of Ed Milton at the high school, and why the previous counselor at Saxe was eliminated. Everyone blames someone else, but it seems to me that the limited funds are not being allocated wisely. Sadly, most tragedies happen when an insider cracks. Let's stop focusing on a Town Hall with increasingly little space for the public to meet and start focusing tax dollars on the health and safety of our community.
Ade March 15, 2013 at 07:33 PM
Cobie - The Health Dept made the decision to ask for only half of the money for the Kids In Crisis budget. It was not the BOF. They voted on the numbers they were given. Paul Giusti did try to add the $25k back in so that questions could be more clearly answered before the final approval by the Town Council. If at that time, the Health Dept felt they could make due with half, the Town Council could decrease the budget request. The Town Council can't, however, increase it at the final budget meeting. I honestly don't understand why the BOF people that voted against it didn't see it that way. It is also a shame that the Health Dept did not have a single representative on hand to answer questions about their budget requests. I wholeheartedly agree with you that now is not the time to scrimp on mental health services.
Cobie Graber March 16, 2013 at 12:09 AM
I am not blaming the BOF/BOE or advocating that taxpayers fund all programs. As I said, I want to see the limited funds allocated wisely. This, in my opinion, is a program worth saving. Yes, someone should have been on hand to explain the rationale behind cutting the Kids in Crisis budget. But, in truth, the meeting was a waste of time. Why give the public an opportunity to evaluate line items and advocate for programs on the cutting block when the budget was, in effect, finalized? I encourage the various areas of the public education system, health and human services and other town departments to invite the public to collaborate with them to make the most of the available funds. As I said at the meeting, we can get by on less tax dollars if we leverage human capital. One of New Canaan's greatest assets is the willingness of residents to share expertise, donations, goods and services.
woah, man March 16, 2013 at 02:38 PM
We are talking $25,000 for a program which benefitted a minimum of 227 students last year (roughly 20% of the hs students). Sounds like a good bang for the buck. I believe HHS should have fought harder for that fudnding and have had a representative at Tuesdays meeting. Plan b, put forth by Paul Guisti was both prudent and thoughtful. Put a line back in, have questions answered over the week, and let the town council strike the line if the questions were not answered in support of the funding. Again, we are talking $25,000. That does not translate to a lot per household. The only "ayes" came from the democrats (sadly only two present) and giusti. I applaud Paul, once again, for proving to be an incredible asset to our town. The "nays" we loud, and shocking to me. When the next line, the library budget came about, Nevillle motioned to allow for the $21,700 1.6% raise for the library workers. I am not saying I don't support a raise for the workers, the library recently received a $3.6 million gift, has a large operating budget, and a huge fundraising campaign here in town. $21,700 is a drop in their bucket. For Neville to motion to support a 1.6% raise, but not $25,000 for a program that supports over 20% of the high school kids, demonstrates exactly where our town's BOF priorities lie: pretty buildings to shown off to our surrounding towns. Yes to the library. No to kids in crisis. That is the message that Neville, Budnick, and the rest of the BoF sent.
Roy A. Abramowitz March 16, 2013 at 05:58 PM
Kudos to Paul Guisti for trying to place the funding back in the budget. Here is my suggestion. The stress that our children and young adults face each day is insurmountable compared to when us adults were kids. Americas children are the hope and backbone of our country and town. If one young life is saved and\or placed on the right path the cost is priceless. We must keep this program alive for our children. I pledge $1,000 personally. I challenge residents to come forward and contribute so that we can reach the $25,000 goal. Lets post our pledges here to this program and have the program leader(s) inform us how to contribute. Kids not infrastructure come first
forthepeople March 17, 2013 at 01:49 AM
To suggest a referendum and all the steps involved without offering one very important aspect is HOW MUCH A REFERENDUM COSTS? Seems penny wise pound foolish.....
Local Parent March 17, 2013 at 03:21 AM
I am sure the Kids in Crisis Counselor is providing needed support but 1) Isn't that what our regular counselors in school can/should provide? and 2) Are the same protocols in place as they are for regular school counselors? As a parent, I sure hope that parents are brought in on issues that impact our children's mental health to the extent that they need to seek counsel outside the realm of our school system.
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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