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Police, School Officials React to Mass Shootings

Wed, 05/25/2022 - 12:40
Durell Godfrey

Another mass shooting has claimed the lives of school children, with at least 19 students and two teachers dead in Uvalde, Tex., after an 18-year-old gunman opened fire at Robb Elementary School on Tuesday. The deadly attack has police and schools on the South Fork on high alert, though no specific threats have been identified.

"These senseless tragedies need to stop," East Hampton Town Police Chief Michael Sarlo said in an email to The Star on Wednesday. "Gun violence in inner cities and mass shootings are the worst form of evil, victimizing innocent people and causing tremendous pain and suffering. Our children need to be able to go to school and learn without worrying about such horrific possibilities."

Parents here reported seeing an increased police presence Wednesday morning, and Chief Sarlo confirmed it.

"Our department has always made the security and safety of our schools a top priority," he said, citing ongoing training of officers for active-shooter situations, their familiarity with school layouts and logistics, the use of school resource officers, and the involvement of students in the DARE program.

In an email to families late Tuesday, Adam Fine, East Hampton School District Superintendent, emphasized that children's safety "is of the utmost importance to us. We will continue to have our strict security protocols in place in all of our buildings. Please do not hesitate to reach out to our schools if your child needs to speak to anyone regarding this incident, or if they simply need support."

Jack Perna, superintendent of the Montauk School District, which employs an armed security guard, said his teachers are ready to talk to students about the shooting in an age-appropriate way, but only if the students bring it up.

"This is so heartbreaking. Again," Mr. Perna said by email.

In Uvalde, Robb Elementary educates students in grades two through four and has an enrollment of about 600, according to NPR. Police ultimately shot and killed the gunman, who is said to have attended Uvalde High School. The high school's graduation ceremony, along with several other school events, has been canceled. Law enforcement officials in Texas said the shooter acted alone, after purchasing two shotguns shortly after his 18th birthday, and that he shot his grandmother before attacking the school. She was in critical condition as of Wednesday afternoon.

Schools here are also offering counseling services for students. Debra Winter, Springs School District Superintendent, said in a letter to families that "many may have a difficult time processing as they see media reports and learn details of this tragedy. We will support our students and families by offering the emotional support needed at this time."

In Bridgehampton, Mary Kelly, the district superintendent, urged parents to talk to their children about "saying something to someone they trust" if they see or hear anything suspicious.

"There are no words to adequately express our most heartfelt sympathy and condolences to the families of Uvalde," Dr. Kelly said. "No family or community should have to bear the shock and sorrow that they are experiencing. This horrific tragedy, along with the recent acts of hateful, senseless violence in Buffalo, have had a profound impact on all of us."

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