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Rhode Island Police Chiefs Assoc. report details steps to take for safer and more secure schools

Photo: RIPCA President and Narragansett Police Chief Sean Corrigan, courtesy Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association

School safety was the topic of Thursday’s announcement by the Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association, joined by school safety stakeholders for the release of the association’s recently created Basic School Safety Protocols document. The event was held at Lincoln High School Auditorium.

Participating in the event:

  • Sidney Wordell, RIPCA Executive Director
  • Sean Corrigan, RIPCA President, Narragansett Police Chief
  • Edward Mello, RIPCA Basic School Safety Committee Chair, Jamestown Police Chief
  • Col. Darnell Weaver, Rhode Island State Police Superintendent and Rhode Island Department of Public Safety Director
  • Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha
  • North Providence Mayor Charles Lombardi, Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns President
  • Kathryn Crowley, East Providence School District Superintendent, Rhode Island School Superintendents Association President
  • Dr. Lawrence Filippelli, Lincoln Superintendent of Schools, Rhode Island School Superintendents Association Executive Board

The press conference introduced the RIPCA’s Basic School Safety Protocols document, which shares best practices for physical security at Rhode Island’s schools, recommendations of safety measures to be implemented by school administrators, and recommendations for state officials to support school districts in these actions. 

In acknowledgement of the impact school shootings have on children, families and communities, the RI Police Chiefs’ Association established the Basic School Safety Committee to provide guidance on a range of actions law enforcement agencies and their school partners can take to help keep students, faculty and staff safe in school buildings across the state.

Officials discussed the document, the committee’s efforts, and the importance of working partnerships between school departments and law enforcement. “School safety is an important topic for us, not only as community leaders, but for many of us also as parents,” said Sean Corrigan, RIPCA President and Narragansett Police Chief. “The Basic School Safety Committee includes representatives from several agencies and sectors, and the document is a collection of best practices gathered based on input and expertise from each agency. Some of these practices may be in place in some communities but not others, and we recognize that some practices may be possible in some communities where they are less realistic in others. Overall, we hope that this document will provide simple and straightforward guidance for school leaders and will help guide future conversations about security in their buildings.”

Gov. McKee thanked the group for their work and reminded attendees that an evaluation of security at every school in the state was completed a week or so ago and $500K was made available per district for necessary repair and upgrades.

Committee chair, Jamestown Poice Chief Edward Mello, said, “We hope that this document provides the support necessary for those seeking guidance. We hope that this is the beginning of a productive conversation about what should be required in school buildings,” Chief Mello said. “We know as law enforcement professionals that the physical security of our school buildings will provide those valuable minutes that are needed in cases of active shooters.”

RI State Police Colonel Darnell Weaver said, “As a parent, there is nothing more important than the safety and wellbeing of my children. In my role as Colonel of the Rhode Island State Police, the safety of all of our children is top of mind for me and my command staff each and every day. I ask that every one of us takes responsibility for implementing these safeguards in every school. The expression ‘a chain is only as strong as its weakest link’ is a good reminder that strict adherence to these best practices is critical. I thank the Rhode Island Police Chiefs for their leadership in developing these best practices and underscore that the Rhode Island State Police supports these recommendations and standards, ready to assist in implementing them across the state.”

The Basic School Safety Protocols document shares numerous best practices for school safety, including physical security measures, as well as training recommendations and guidance on maintaining working partnerships between schools and law enforcement. 

RI Attorney General Peter Neronha spoke about the importance of partnerships that will help to protect children, as well as the importance of training officers to respond to threats, saying, “Taking steps in our schools across the state to make them safer for children is important, and making sure law enforcement is well-trained to respond in the event of a threat is incredibly important,” AG Neronha said. “It’s this partnership that can keep our children safe. I’m really pleased that these protocols have been put together. In my view, it is an enormous step forward for the community and most importantly for children in the State of Rhode Island.”

Dr. Lawrence Filipppelli, Lincoln School Superintendent and Executive Board member of the Rhode Island School Superintendents Association, and a member of the RIPCA Basic School Safety Committee spoke of the importance of districts working with School Resource Officers and the positive impact they can have in the schools, a recommendation that is also addressed in the school safety document. “One of the big takeaways from our planning sessions and one of the most important protocols is for school departments to continue to work closely with their respective police departments,” Dr. Filippelli said. “I think all of us would like to see additional school resource officers in our schools. These men and women not only keep our schools safe from a security perspective, but a well-trained SRO provides a wonderful opportunity to build necessary relationships between the police and our student populations. Done correctly, the SRO is an amazing resource for our children and another adult that students can go to in times of need. I can’t stress enough the powerful impact SROs have had here in Lincoln and all across the state as they build positive relationships with our students and assist in All Hazards Site Surveys to keep our schools and districts safe.”

North Providence Mayor Charles Lombardi, President of the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns, spoke of school safety measures taken in North Providence and the need for continuous improvement and learning from each other.

All schools in Rhode Island will receive the Basic School Safety Protocols document in the coming weeks.  While this document lists very specific things being recommended such as types of safety glass and door closures, the state’s report on each individual schools will not have publicly released specifics, for obvious reasons.

Parents who are interested in participating in the process can review the document and use it when meeting or interacting with their local schools to assure safety measures are being addressed.

Here is the full document:

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