It has been months since the Northport-East Northport school district hosted a meeting asking for community input for armed guards, now the subject will finally be seeing a vote.
The Northport-East Northport school board voted 5-to-1 at its Nov. 8 meeting to move
forward with the vote for armed guards at its Nov. 28 meeting. Trustee Allison Noonan was the lone dissenter.
“I’m not a fan of taking too many more baby steps on this,” board Vice President David Stein said.
“Armed guards are plagued by accidents and dangerous misuse of their weapons.”
— James Connor
The district hosted a public meeting in March, shortly after the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where the local community largely came out to support hiring armed personnel to protect its students. Since then, the district has hosted two public forums, one on Oct. 11
examining the pros and cons of armed guards that featured members of the Suffolk County Police Department, the Northport Police Department and the Asharoken Police Department. A second Nov. 1 meeting was held to discuss the emotional and psychological impact of armed guards with a panel composed of some of the district’s social workers, principals and health and wellness teachers.
As time has gone on, the uniform opinion of that original March meeting has fractured into the two camps of people who support and those against hiring armed guards. James Connor, a sophomore at Northport High School, spoke at the Nov. 8 meeting where he cited situations such as the recent shootings at both the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, California, where security personnel and police were shot and killed by an active shooter.
“Armed guards are plagued by accidents and dangerous misuse of their weapons,” Connor said. “Guards aren’t a surefire way to resolve an active shooter scenario … Guns are not the answer.”
“At most schools prevention is the trend rather than reaction.”
— Nicole Raganella
East Northport resident Nicole Raganella, a professional therapist, said that without armed guards, the impetus and responsibility to protect students instead falls on the mental healthprofessionals in the district.
“At most schools prevention is the trend rather than reaction,” Raganella said. “It is your job to provide effective security, and if all these measures fail and a threat is active, are you prepared to tell staff and students that the responsibility is on them to defend themselves?”
School trustees raised questions about the costs associated with armed guards and whether they should wait to receive request for proposalsfrom companies before they move forward to vote. The board asked that Superintendent Robert Banzer and his staff provide the district with additional information on the estimated costs of hiring armed guards as well as the type of guards the district would plan to hire before the Nov. 28 meeting.
“There’s a big difference between us voting on hiring [Smithtown-based Arrow Security] guards, which you might find at any movie theater, and the kind of guard I would envision if I were going to do this here,” Stein said.
“Some would argue having armed guards on campus increases students stress.”
Noonan said the school should not have a conversation about armed guards without citing the social and emotional impact of having those personnel in or near the school.
“Some would argue having armed guards on campus increases students stress,” she said. “I would say you cannot extrapolate one from the other, and you can’t talk about one without the other.”
Noonan requested that the board also vote to discuss creating a committee or public task force that could discuss the emotional impacts of the school’s increasing security measures on students and their overall feeling of safety at the Nov. 28 meeting. When that failed, the board voted to discuss such a proposition at its Dec. 13 board meeting. Noonan was the lone vote against holding the discussion on that date, feeling action was needed soon.
The next board meeting will be held Nov. 28 at the William J. Brosnan Administrative Building on Laurel Avenue. Public session starts at 7 p.m.
All of the Northport-East Northport board of education’s agendas can be found online here starting a few days prior to the meeting.