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Hire more police officers, parents tell Epping school officials

Union Leader Correspondent

February 22. 2018 9:50PM

EPPING — Several parents urged school officials Thursday night to consider hiring more police officers for Epping schools to improve safety and build relationships with students.

The important role of school resource officers was one of the key messages echoed by some of the more than 250 people who turned out for a school safety forum at Epping High School.

“You can’t put a price on our children,” parent Michelle Powers told the audience.

The forum was planned in response to the massacre on Feb. 14 that left 17 students and faculty dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. On the same day, Epping school officials received a report of a possible threat involving a student at the high school. The report prompted a police investigation and led to a criminal threatening charge, although police and school officials insist that students and faculty were never in any danger.

The forum was an opportunity for school administrators, Police Chief Michael Wallace and Fire Chief Don DeAngelis to explain the protocols and procedures that are followed when incidents occur. They also outlined training and other steps being taken to ensure student safety.

Ironically, the school’s leadership team was in “active shooter” training with Wallace and the Portsmouth Police Department on the morning of the Florida shooting.

Brian Miskinis, a father of two daughters in the elementary school and a teacher at The Longview School in Deerfield, was one of several parents who spoke about the need for more school resource officers.

The district currently has one officer, Russell Hero, who is shared by the elementary, middle and high schools.

“We definitely need more people like you,” Miskinis said, referring to Hero, “You’re that relationship that some of these kids don’t get.”

Superintendent Valerie McKenney said it would cost about $100,000 to hire another officer. Supporters of the idea suggested it could be proposed as a warrant article, but were told that it would be too late for voters to consider at town meeting next month.

Johana Comeau, a mother of six, said she’s a substitute teacher and parent volunteer who feels she should be trained like faculty to know how she could be more helpful during an emergency.

“I will not hide if I can save a child, so what can we do as substitutes and volunteers who don’t get the training that staff has?” she asked.

School officials took notes during the forum so that some of the ideas could be discussed further.

Students also spoke about programs offered to help address mental health issues.

Freshman Meaghan Murphy, 15, questioned whether students are fully aware of what to do if a shooting occurred. She said teachers and staff know what to do, but, added, “I feel that we should know what to do in that situation.”

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