Principal and Police Department Clarify School Lockdown Procedures

Nevaeh Lugo, Class of 2023

Officer Vic DeSimone of the West Haven Police Department and Principal Dana Paredes recently visited the school newsroom to discuss the actions being taken for the physical and mental health of students regarding school shootings, a topic which began to trend once again after the Oxford shooting in Michigan.


Mrs. Paredes described the school’s mitigation strategies as having levels, which she labeled as physical, human, and mental health resources.


Physical mitigation includes the amount of entrances and exits in the building. The newer building includes fewer opportunities for an intruder to enter and each exit is equipped with an alarm that will trigger if a door is propped open. Starting in the New Year, those physical mitigation strategies will include metal detectors at each entrance. 


Human mitigation includes security on campus. Security guards are always located in each area of school grounds to keep staff and students safe from a variety of dangerous scenarios.


“We have [resource officers] from the West Haven Police Department who are here with us and really, actively investigate any rumors, any suspicion, any social media post,” Mrs. Paredes said.


The school’s mental health resources include social workers who are willing to talk to students about any concerns that arise regarding lockdowns or help them through struggles with mental health in general.


“After the pandemic, we realized that there may be many students who maybe really didn’t struggle with mental health [before], and we were able to bring in some full-time clinicians through Bridges to work on behavioral health,” Mrs. Paredes said.


Bridges is a behavioral health clinic stationed in areas across Connecticut, including West Haven.


In the event that a lockdown takes place, the WHPD and the school administration have made their roles clear.


“Our goal and our role is to find out what the problem is and resolve it,” Officer DeSimone said.  “In the case of an active shooter, if one should happen, that’s important.”


He continued to stress the importance of the police department finding the cause of a threat to school safety and rectifying it.


Mrs. Paredes described the administration’s role in a lockdown as providing assistance to the police department.


She said that the department relies on the staff in administration to relay demographic and relationship information if the police find it relevant, but leave the authorities to resolve the issue beyond that.


“[During a lockdown] we hand over control of the building to the police department.” Mrs. Paredes said, “As far as making decisions, the command center of the police department would take over all decision-making and we would kind of work at their will.”


Following the rise in popularity of threats and jokes on social media, the administration and police department wanted to remind students to not make light of a potentially life-threatening situation.


“There are some things that students need to realize that they can joke about and they can’t make a joke about,” Officer DeSimone said. “Anything about a school shooting, it’s not a joke, and we need everyone to take it seriously.”