‘Everybody’s going to model this district’
Director: School security staff will be top notch
DARIEN — With candidate interviews set to begin shortly, Darien schools’ new director of security unveiled the equipment, training and vetting procedures for the district’s incoming school security officers.
Darien is set to hire six school security officers — armed former law enforcement officers — for the elementary schools. The district currently has school resource officers, employed by the police department, in place at Darien High School and Middlesex Middle School.
In his 11th day as director of security, former New Canaan Chief of Police Leon Krolikowski provided some of the highly requested details to the Board of Education about SSO qualifications and a month-to-month security roll-out plan, one he said was more comprehensive than those in place at other districts.
“You’re going to be a leader in school security and safety, and everybody’s going to model this district,” Krolikowski said. “We will mitigate things in ways to protect our children better than any other community, I’m certain of that.”
Krolikowski said all of the candidates he had seen on paper had decades of law enforcement experience and training, some experience in school environments, experience making critical decisions and enjoyed working with children.
All SSOs will be equipped with a firearm, a Taser and pepper spray. They will also have a tourniquet, a body camera and a radio to communicate directly with the Darien Police Department.
To be hired, all candidates must pass a comprehensive background check from the police department, a psychological exam, a medical exam and a drug test.
While state mandate would require a drug test every three years and a psychological evaluation every five, Krolikowski said the district may adopt a more frequent drug testing strategy, though what that would be was not detailed.
“We would probably follow a more aggressive schedule than every three years just to make sure that these folks are drug tested and that there’s no issues with substance use, especially since they’re carrying a firearm,” he said.
Before being assigned to schools, SSOs will undergo initial training for CPR and first aid and certifications for firearms, Tasers and pepper spray.
In addition, training includes use of force, de-escalation, crisis communication, implicit bias in threat assessment, psychological management, social and emotional learning, preventing bullying and sensitivity training with the school psychologist.
During early discussions regarding SSOs, several parents expressed concern over how the officers would respond around children, particularly children with disabilities.
While an official uniform has not been selected yet, SSOs are expected to wear uniforms based on current SRO uniforms — a more relaxed version of an officer’s uniform — relying on the familiarity of the look.
Krolikowski emphasized the communication between school security and the parent community to create comfort as officers are assigned to the schools, hoping to meet with elementary school parent teacher organizations in March.
As chair of the board’s communication sub-committee, member Julie Best singled out just how important keeping parents and the larger community informed should be at all times.
“As the SSOs get hired, as the program rolls out and on an ongoing basis, I think that’s going to be really key to bring the community along on this initiative,” Best said.
Dineen agreed, also suggesting a trial run of the communication between the district and administration for the security rollout, potentially coordinated with the communication subcommittee.
In addition to interviewing SSOs, Krolikowski said he is in the process of evaluating all school buildings and campuses and meeting with school personnel and campus monitors about potential security improvements.
He is also looking into implementing alternative communication and anonymous reporting systems such as Sandy Hook Promise and Gaggle, a student surveillance software.
A comprehensive security report and subsequent districtwide plan is expected in 2023.