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Letter to the editor

To the editor:

I walked into St. Mary's School in Morris on Thursday, Feb. 15, unlocked the front door and let myself in. I was approached by a teacher who told me she had a student approach her about safety at school. I chatted with a few teachers about the devastation at a high school in Parkland, Florida, and asked them to review the lockdown procedures with their students today.

The bell rang and I greeted our students for the day. A first-grader responded with "Did you know somebody did something bad at a school?" "Yes, I heard." She continued on her way.

Our fifth grade teacher called down because some students in her class were very concerned about their safety. Luckily, School Resource Police Officer Anita Liebl, our school safety officer, was able to come over for her weekly D.A.R.E. class and she took time to talk to the students about their safety and what to do. This is all before 9 a.m.

Just after 9 a.m. I had a community member call to talk about student safety and that she has noticed a door between school and church had been open one day. I met with our custodial staff shortly after and confirmed that the door is locked and that it will be checked to make sure. Another teacher calls down to the office; "The kids want to know if they can use the fire escape if they are in danger." The students had seen the graphic images of students sitting in a room and they want to know if they can get out. "Yes, they can." I met with officer Liebl before she headed to the high school.

Before 10 a.m. in the morning I had met with parents, students, staff, a police officer and members of our community to discuss school safety. They were scared, and frankly so am I. We need change in this country. What change? I, honestly, do not know. Something must change. We can't have our children afraid to come to school each day, not knowing if a 'bad person' is going to come into their school and hurt them.

Joe Ferriero

Principal at St. Mary's School in Morris and Musical director, FCCLA Adviser at Morris Area Schools.