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Ward Melville High School. File photo by Greg Catalano

Three Village school district has officially made a decision on whether or not to allow students to participate in a walkout.

Ward Melville Principal Alan Baum informed student organizers March 9 the district could not allow students to walk out March 14, according to Bennett Owens, one of the organizers. Parents were notified by the district in a letter later that day.

Students were planning to participate in the walkout held in conjunction with events across the nation honoring the 17 victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, and to call for stricter gun control laws. Parents and students were told it was a joint decision by the board of education, principal and district’s lawyer to not encourage the walkout. Owens said the main concern cited at the March 9 meeting with the principal was the district feeling it couldn’t keep the students safe during the walkout.

“My whole thing is I’m not going to not do what I believe in out of fear of someone being violent, because that’s really why we’re protesting,” Owens said, adding that he plans to walkout regardless of the district’s decision. “We’re protesting the fact that we’re not safe in school.”

At the end of the school day March 9, the school district released a letter from Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich and board of education President William Connors. Various discussions were held with students and staff to find the best ways to students participate in what has been called the #Enough movement, according to the letter.

“As a result of these discussions and with the guidance of our legal counsel, our district will not be encouraging or condoning a walkout involving students exiting the building or leaving campus,” the letter read. “We feel that this type of demonstration would not only disrupt the educational program but would severely compromise our mission to ensure building security and student safety.”

In the letter, the district also informed parents that any student who leaves the building without authorization will be asked to return to class. Parents will be contacted if their children disregard the direction, and students who are disrespectful or disorderly will be subjected to the district’s code of conduct.

As an alternate to a walkout, the district is offering voluntary activities March 14 for high school and junior high school students, according to the letter from Pedisich and Connors. There will be a moment of silence at the high school and both junior high schools. A forum moderated by instructional staff and supervised by administrators will be held in the Ward Melville auditorium for interested students to discuss issues connected to the #Enough movement. R. C. Murphy Junior High School students will have the opportunity to write letters to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students, and P.J. Gelinas junior high schoolers can gather in the gymnasium during fourth period to hear student government leaders read memoriam notes and listen to a brief music interlude.

“It is our hope that our planned activities will afford our students the opportunity to pay respects, offer reflection and appropriately respond to honor the victims of the tragedy,” the letter read.

The decision comes a week after students interested in participating in a walkout sat with Baum to discuss their plans. Both Owens and fellow organizers were optimistic, saying the principal was receptive to their ideas; suggested changing walking out of the main entrance to the gym entrance, feeling it would be safer; and said participants would not receive disciplinary action.

Owens said he was disappointed with the district’s final decision.

“I just think a walkout at 10 a.m. when schools nationally are doing it — this was the most impactful way to get our message across,” Owens said.

Owens said he and other organizers plan to continue promoting the event on the Instagram account wmhs_walkout, but will advise fellow students they may face repercussions. Planning to attend Binghamton University in the fall, Owens said he’s not worried about any disciplinary actions that may follow the peaceful walkout after seeing a post on the college’s Instagram account, binghamtonu. The university posted: “Binghamton University will not change admissions decisions for students who are involved in peaceful protests addressing gun violence.”

Stony Brook University followed a similar policy, and posted a message to its Facebook page Feb. 26. “We have received inquiries from prospective and admitted students asking us if their admissions application will be negatively viewed if they have protested,” the statement read. “At Stony Brook University, a disciplinary action associated with meaningful, peaceful participation in a protest will not negatively impact an admissions decision. We would not view it as inappropriate or lacking integrity on its face. We view every disciplinary action on a case-by-case basis.”

Mount Sinai School District's board of education during its March 8 meeting. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

Students in Mount Sinai will come back to school after this weekend greeted by new armed security guards.

The Mount Sinai board of education voted unanimously March 8 to hire four armed guards to patrol the school campus. Three of the armed guards will be stationed in and around the three main buildings on the campus, where the elementary, middle and high schools sit, while the fourth will be used to patrol the grounds and surrounding fences. The board said the guards will not be involved in normal disciplinary activities.

“My concern is based on response time. The 6th Precinct gave it a shot, and their best estimate was an eight-minute response time.”

— Gordon Brosdal

“My concern is based on response time,” Mount Sinai Superintendent Gordon Brosdal said. “The 6th Precinct gave it a shot, and their best estimate was an eight-minute response time.”

Brosdal also said he was also fearful that Mount Sinai is the type of nice area that would attract a shooting.
“We fit the profile of a school that gets hit,” he said.

As the national discussion over guns in schools lingers with no true federal legislation in sight, local school districts are spending budgetary funds to hire armed guards to protect children. Mount Sinai joins Miller Place School District and other districts across Long Island in hiring armed security personnel in the wake of the Parkland, Florida, shooting Feb. 14.

While Mount Sinai school board President Lynn Capobianco said that the district is currently looking for a risk assessment to be conducted, many residents at the meeting expressed disappointment that the district did not conduct one before hiring the armed guards.

“I believe we do need to take a look at what we are doing with school security — assessing our own risk after sort of seems like auditing our own taxes and then telling the IRS we don’t mean to pay,” resident Joe Latini said. “To me, it’ really is important that we have a third party risk assessment team come in here and tell us what we should do to secure the schools.”

School board Vice President Michael Riggio said the board wanted to get the armed guards in as soon as possible.

“I believe there is a threat, and armed security guards checks that box of deterrent.”

— Michael Riggio

“I believe there is a threat, and armed security guards checks that box of deterrent,” Riggio said.

The board is buying the services of Retail Security Services Inc. based out of Medford. The guards will be paid $40 per hour. The board said a future meeting will show where the guards will be placed in the budget.

Some parents in the meeting expressed that they wanted the guards to have military or prison guard backgrounds, but Brosdal said that when working as superintendent in William Floyd School District, that employs a number of security personnel, the most problems he had between security and the students were with those who used to work in Rikers penitentiary.

“Picture a guy whose done 20 years or more in Rikers with high school kids,” he said, pausing. “Not a good mix.”

Mount Sinai residents were split on whether they thought armed guards would truly protect the school’s children.

“I don’t think there would be enough people in the community to voice against it, because God forbid there is ever a school shooting, and the campus has no security in place.”

— Therese Blanton

“Regardless of what your stance is, I don’t think there would be enough people in the community to voice against it, because God forbid there is ever a school shooting, and the campus has no security in place,” Mount Sinai resident Chris Hart said. “These are open grounds — this is a large facility.”

Therese Blanton said she did not think the four armed guards would be enough to protect the campus.

“I still don’t understand how letting one armed guard in each building will protect this entire campus, including our perimeter,” Blanton said. “There’s no hard structure around and you have soft targets when they are out playing on the playground. I think a lot of people who are in my position are intimidated by guns in schools.”

Henry Dreyer said he too would prefer a full risk assessment done first, and that more parents would come to each and every meeting to help the district improve on a regular basis.

“I don’t like it, it’s unfortunate that they took this route,” he said of the board. “I would like if there were more mental health care in here. I have kids in the school — second grade and kindergarten — I attend the board of education meetings regularly, and there’s usually seven or eight of us here. Last week there were about 100 people here, and this time there’s more than 50. If they’d come down here every week, it would be better.”

Miller Place and Rocky Point will host indoor forums, Shoreham-Wading River is undecided

Mount Sinai High School. File photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

In the aftermath of the most recent mass shooting, students across the nation are planning to rise up and walk out — a movement that is being handled very differently across local school districts.

On March 14, exactly one month after gun violence at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, left 17 students and faculty members dead, students plan to walk out of their schools for 17 minutes starting at 10 a.m. — both in honor of the Parkland victims and as a call for legislative action to help put an end to deadly shootings. The nationwide protest, the seeds of which have spread across social media with the hashtag #ENOUGH, was launched by the activist group Women’s March Youth EMPOWER, whose members are demanding Congress do more than “tweet thoughts and prayers in response to gun violence” and that “students and staff have the right to teach in an environment free from the worry of being gunned down in their classrooms,” according to the group’s website.

The movement was initiated by Parkland survivors, whose outcry against guns following the shooting has reverberated throughout each and every state. An impassioned speech given by senior Emma González Feb. 17 went viral by stating that she and her fellow classmates would change the law in the country so that her high school would be the location of America’s last mass shooting.

“I told my kids I do not want them participating. There are other ways to learn, protect and voice your opinions.”

— Keri Rooney

Across the North Shore, school districts have begun addressing how they will handle the localized version of the movement, with Miller Place and Rocky Point firmly opposed to letting their students leave the building — echoing widely shared concerns over safety. Mount Sinai is on board with letting students participate in the national movement, while Shoreham-Wading River is still weighing the situation.

Miller Place

During a board of education meeting Feb. 28, where Superintendent Marianne Cartisano outlined for parents the district’s enhanced security measures, including the newly assigned four armed guards for its four buildings, she addressed the walkout.

“We are looking to see how we’re going to manage it here to allow students to have a voice, but I can tell you right now — there is no way that I’m going to have students walk outside at 10 o’clock in the morning,” Cartisano said to applause in the room. “The reason is that if everybody knows that children are walking outside at 10 o’clock in the morning, then who are the obvious victims? And that may or may not happen in our nation — and I pray every night that it doesn’t — but what I can tell you is that’s not going to happen here.”

She explained to residents that she and other administrators want students to have a voice, but in a way that doesn’t create a health and safety issue, or turn into “a political movement.”

“Our students’ voices do have to be heard about ending school violence and returning schools to the safe havens that they once were,” the superintendent said. “We’re spending a tremendous amount of time talking about student demonstrations and how we can provide students with a voice against school violence while also recognizing those who have lost their lives.”

She said students will be able to participate in a safer alternative inside the building March 14. Senior Jake Angelo, student representative on the board, later suggested the indoor event could involve an anti-bullying sentiment and a flower sale to raise money for those in Parkland.

Students in Miller Place will host in-school reflections during the national walkout March 14. Photo by Kevin Redding

Amanda Cohen-Stein, a parent in the district, said later in a community Facebook post that while she originally supported the walkout, she changed her mind following Cartisano’s comments.

“It is best they not leave school grounds,” Cohen-Stein said.

Keri Rooney, a Sound Beach resident with ties to Miller Place, said she didn’t feel comfortable about the walkout.

“I told my kids I do not want them participating,” Rooney said. “There are other ways to learn, protect and voice your opinions. Walking out of school is not the answer and leaves them as an easy target.”

Rocky Point

Michael Ring, superintendent of the Rocky Point district, recently sent a letter to parents in which he said that organized, student-run walkouts “are not a viable option for our schools,” and that any student who chooses to participate in the movement via exiting the high school, will be “subject to administrative action.” He did not specify what the specific consequence would be.

“No Rocky Point student will be permitted to leave the premises as part of any of these upcoming events or otherwise, without appropriate permission, whether on March 14 or at any time during school hours throughout the school year,” Ring wrote. “Any student found to have left school without appropriate permission on any school day during the year will be subject to administrative action in accordance with the district’s code of conduct.”

He made it clear that this decision was based on heightened attention to school safety and security, and that, despite not being allowed to leave the grounds, students wishing to participate in the movement March 14 can do so through districtwide activities planned for the day by administration and staff.

“Many in our schools have expressed interest in engaging in activities aimed at not only honoring the lives lost in this national tragedy, but also giving voice to the hope that a similar event does not happen again,” Ring said.

“No Rocky Point student will be permitted to leave the premises.”

—Michael Ring

For high school students, these include a moment of silence and the viewing of a tribute to the 17 lives lost in Parkland; a discussion led by teachers encouraging students to participate in 17 acts of kindness during the day in order to “increase positive interactions within the school community”; and opportunities
during social studies classes to voice their opinions on ways to better enhance safety and security in the school; and write letters either to elected officials or the survivors and family members of victims in Parkland.

Although this is considered a high school initiative, Ring said that there will be similar activities, including the letter writing, in the middle school and a moment of silence and kindness-geared activities in both Frank J. Carasiti Elementary School and Joseph A. Edgar Intermediate School.

Mount Sinai

After Principal Robert Grable met with 20 members of the student government last Friday to gauge student’s perspectives on the walkout, it was decided — in correspondence with Superintendent Gordon Brosdal and the board of education — that Mount Sinai students who wish to participate can do so March 14.

The students will stand outside on the high school’s athletic field for 17 minutes, school officials said, during which time the campus is expected to be shut down with tightened security by the entrances on the North Country Road and 25A sides of the property, which will be closed and locked.

Grable said in speaking with student leaders he made it clear that he wanted the walkout to be structured, safe and well supervised.

“I didn’t want to cut them off, so if there was a way to do this safely and securely, I was certainly willing to do that.”

— Rob Grable

“It’s a very hot topic right now,” Grable said. “I think everybody is emotional about it, including the student body, and I didn’t want to cut them off, so if there was a way to do this safely and securely, I was certainly willing to do that. I don’t think it will be that major of a distraction and it will accommodate both parties — the administration as well as the students who wish to demonstrate their support of this initiative.”

Student Council President Joe Kelly, a senior, said he and his peers believe the event should be focused on reflection.

“I talked to a lot of students and we think the walkout should be more for remembering the 17 lives lost with a moment of silence rather than bringing up anything political,” he said. “I talked to many people, all of whom have differing political opinions, and they all wanted it to not be political. They only wanted to do the walk if it was in respect for those in Florida.”

Available teachers, administrators, aides and the district’s school resource officer will be asked to monitor the students. While Brosdal said currently there is the potential for all 800 students to be out there, he predicts there will be many who wish not to be involved. Those students will be able to remain in their classrooms with their teachers.

The superintendent said he supports the students’ rights to take part in this national movement if they choose to.

“I guess we’re getting to the point where enough is enough, not just in terms of the horror of the shootings and the kinds of people that come in, but how unsafe schools are now,” Brosdal said. “I believe truly, in a student’s heart, if they want to experience this and reflect and commemorate this tragic event, they should be permitted to do it. I don’t anticipate misbehavior. I believe in our kids.”

Shoreham-Wading River

“The district is currently discussing this matter, and once a decision is made it will be communicated with our parents and students,” said Shoreham-Wading River Superintendent Gerard Poole in an email March 6.

“It will make the students walking targets.”

— Chris Albinski Simion

On a closed Shoreham-Wading River community Facebook page, parent opinions on the walkout ranged from adamant support to heated opposition.

“Definitely against it,” Chris Albinski Simione wrote. “It will make the students walking targets. Every wacko in the country will know when and what time these kids will be outside the schools.”

Another resident, Linda Kelly, asked, “And a walkout will accomplish what exactly? No need to do this on school time.”

But Judy Shaffer Noonan said it will, and always will, be young people who make the biggest changes in society.

“The adults failed,” she said. “Historically, the young have impacted change. The young are the future. I don’t think these kids are doing this out of a sense of entitlement … I’m very proud of the Parkland students who are standing up and demanding change.”

Tyler Holmes, a district graduate, said it will be a historic day.

“I’ll do my part to engage in any positive and well-represented protest instead of sitting home,” he said.

District administrators to review security plans March 13; have plans to install more cameras

Huntington High School. File photo.

With Florida’s school shooting still in recent memory, Huntington school officials are taking the tragedy as a reminder to review their own security plans.

Parents were given a thorough rundown of Huntington Union Free School District’s plans to keep its nearly 4,600 students safe and planned security upgrades at the Feb. 26 board of education meeting.

“Any district that would say they are well prepared to deal with any and all contingencies that could occur would be stating something that is not true,” Superintendent James Polansky said. “I believe in this district we are as actively thinking what can and may happen as any other district out there. You have to be as many steps ahead as any district can be.”

Any district that would say they are well prepared to deal with any and all contingencies that could occur would be stating something that is not true.”
—James Polansky

Kathleen Acker, Huntington’s assistant superintendent for finances and management services, walked parents through the district’s general safety plans, which can be found online, in addition to informing them that a districtwide plan and highly-detailed building specific plans exist and are filed with state and local law enforcement.

“The plans are very dynamic and always change in response,” Acker said. “We will be doing a review on March 13 to see how comprehensive it is, but there’s always room to add a bit more.”

School officials have used part of the district’s $1.4 million Smart Schools Bond Act funds from the state to upgrade existing security cameras at the high school and install additional ones districtwide this year, according to Acker. She said the district has also recently partnered with Intralogic Solutions, a security technology provider, to pilot a new safety system. The Alert Domain Awareness System focuses security cameras on fire alarms to provide a view of who pulled the trigger, a method which was employed by the Parkland shooting suspect, to determine if it’s a credible alarm.

The assistant superintendent said the district will spend approximately $100,000 to replace old doors at two elementary schools with doors that can be locked from the inside. It’s a process referred to as door hardening, according to Polansky, and it’s recommended classroom doors are locked at all times.

“Just a locked door serves as a deterrent,” he said. “If there’s a threat, they’ll keep moving.”

Huntington school district has hired one additional security guard, currently in training, and plans to review its deployment of guards throughout the district. The state has approved the district’s plans to construct a security vestibule at Jefferson Elementary School this summer, according to Acker. School officials are also waiting for state approval to build similar booths at Nathaniel Woodhull School and Southdown Primary School.

“If we can’t keep students and staff safe, nothing else matters.” 
— James Polansky

Last year, each building had video monitors installed at every greeter station so staff members could see visitors looking to gain entrance. Visitors are required to show photo identification.

The superintendent said he believes a key piece of ensuring student safety is preventative measures which have included anti-bullying programs and adding support staff — a social worker, a psychologist and more guidance counselors.

“They are not teaching kids in the classroom, but the services are indispensable,” Polansky said.

The Huntington superintendent said he had a meeting scheduled with 10 other school administrators across Huntington and Smithtown townships Feb. 27 to discuss the best ways to communicate and share security strategies in light of the recent shooting.

“Safety is our No. 1 priority,” Polansky said. “If we can’t keep students and staff safe, nothing else matters.” 

In a July 2017 tweet, U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin insisted he’d ‘married up’ when his wife Diana asked him to take their date to the shooting range. Photo from Twitter

By Ernestine Franco

We’ve seen a number of letters in this paper where you [U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley)] expound on all the great things you’ve done for your district. However, it seems to me that you either have forgotten
about or don’t want us to know some of your votes and issues you’ve supported, especially relating
to gun control.

The horrific events at the Parkland high school in Florida happened because a 19-year-old was able to walk into the school with an AR-15-style rifle, which he legally bought, and murder 17 people. Some of the children who survived the shooting, the deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook, are speaking out: “How are we allowed to buy guns at the age of 18 or 19? That’s something we shouldn’t be able to do,” Lyliah Skinner, a student who survived the shooting, told CNN.

Beginning with the attack at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999, life for many of our children has become about practicing active shooter drills and huddling through lockdowns. So I have to wonder about your position on gun control. I question whether you care about what many children now have to deal with when they go to school.

On Jan. 14, 2014, after the Newtown massacre, in a letter to the New York State Senate, you wrote, “This debate should be even more focused on targeting illegal guns and providing maximum assistance to New Yorkers with mental illnesses in order to most directly avoid another tragedy like Newtown. Our focus …  has to be providing people in need of mental health care more access to help. Society as a whole also needs to better understand mental illness and develop improved means of detecting potential violence long before it can become a threat to anyone else.”

So it seems you believe the solution to some of these mass shootings is that we need to better detect problems with the mentally ill rather than ensure that people with mental illness cannot buy a gun? Then please explain why you voted “yes” on the bill to nullify the Obama-era rule that prohibited people with severe mental health issues from purchasing guns?

Granted there was lots of evidence that the shooter’s behavior should have triggered alarm in those around him, but it is unclear whether recognizing and trying to deal with the signs would have changed what this young man wanted to do that day. However, it is clear that if he couldn’t buy an AR-15, he more than likely could not have been able to kill 17 people. So, I ask you, will you support a ban on assault-style weapons?

The day after the school shooting in Florida, in a Facebook post, you expressed sympathy for the victims and their parents. Taking President Donald Trump’s lead, however, you never used the word “gun,” as if the carnage were just about the person.

According to MoveOn.org, you have received $33,732 from the National Rifle Association. So, here, I have to again wonder whether your views on gun control have more to do with gun sales than with gun rights. The majority of Americans, even most gun owners, as well as the majority of Republicans, support enhanced background checks as well as a ban on assault-style weapons. Why don’t you? Is it about the money you can get from the NRA rather than what most people want? What’s more important to you: That anyone, even someone who is mentally ill, should be able to buy an AR-15 or ensuring that our children are kept safe?

On Dec. 6 you co-sponsored H.R. 38 — the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017. This act authorizes someone who holds a concealed-carry permit issued in one state to carry a concealed firearm in any state that also authorizes concealed carry of firearms. This bill overrides federal law concerning the concealed carry of a firearm into a school zone or onto a federally owned property.

In case I have misrepresented any of your positions, and if you are really committed to keeping our children — and your own — safe, how about holding an in-person  town hall meeting so we can
discuss these issues?

Ernestine Franco is a Sound Beach resident and proofreader for TBR News Media. She is also a member of the Sound Beach Civic Association.

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We’ve been here before. A shooter kills and maims unarmed, innocent American citizens, and according to the people elected to represent us, it’s never quite the right time to discuss gun control.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) told us last week, now “is not the time to jump to some conclusion,” adding the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, was not about guns, but about “pure evil.”

We’re glad students from the high school have rebuked Ryan and his ilk who, as a church sign in Australia put it over the weekend, “love guns more than their kids.” If students who experienced the horror in Florida Feb. 14 firsthand are ready to talk about change, we’re with them.

However, we’ll go along with the speaker’s flawed premise and offer some thoughts about the latest mass shooting in the United States without politicizing the discussion:

• First, let’s honor the heroes who put themselves in harm’s way, some, making the ultimate sacrifice for their colleagues and classmates. While many have heard of teacher Scott Beigel, 35, who grew up in Dix Hills and died shielding students from gunfire, have you heard of Anthony Borges? Anthony is a 15-year-old student fighting for his life who saved 20 lives as he attempted to close and lock a classroom door. He was shot five times — in both legs, his upper left thigh and his back. His thigh bone was shattered.

• Are all threats taken seriously? A neighbor reported the shooter’s social media account to the FBI in January, making note of his “gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting,” a statement from the FBI read. But nothing was done. Every single hostile message, no matter how small, needs to be noted and handled accordingly. Police need to investigate every threat or mention of harm or disturbance, while schools and their therapists should monitor every student suspect from then on out.

• We are extremely impressed by the grace and maturity students from the high school have displayed in their public thoughts on the tragedy. Lasting change being brought about by young voices should be what America is all about. While many had lost hope, grieving students cried out. Yes, it was a terrible tragedy that should never have happened, as is said each and every time a mass shooting occurs, but again nothing is being done. This is why there are plans for a March For Our Lives stomp on March 24 in Washington, D.C., where the people will bring the power. “We are up here standing together, because if all our government and president can do is send thoughts and prayers, then it’s time for the victims to be the change that we need to see,” said 18-year-old Emma González. We admire the Parkland high school senior, and the many other students who took to podiums to voice their opinions, concerns and anger. They have a right to be mad, and even more, a right to be heard. David Hogg, a 17-year-old student who survived the shooting, had a similar, strong message to legislators: “Politicians and more importantly the American public must take action if we’re going to prevent the next shooting. To elected officials I say this, ‘Don’t lie to us. Don’t make any more false promises, because when you do, children die.’” He called the time a turning point in American history “where students stand up and speak out — when the politicians won’t.” We hope to see that happen. In the face of division, standing up is not for any political agenda but for the lives of the innocent, like young school children.

As Emma González said, and, yes, now we’ll talk about guns: “They say that tougher gun laws do not decrease gun violence. We call B.S.” So do we, Emma.

An assault rifle, the weapon of choice in many mass shootings, including the Feb. 14 massacre at a Florida high school. Stock photo

The shots fired in a Florida high school last week are ringing out across Suffolk County.

Immediately following the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 students and faculty members dead, Suffolk County school district officials began to batten down the hatches and inform residents that preparations are in place if an active shooter situation were to occur closer to home.

MOUNT SINAI

Since news of the shooting broke last Wednesday, Mount Sinai Superintendent Gordon Brosdal said he and other administrators and members of the board of education have been thoroughly discussing, evaluating and prioritizing security upgrades across the district’s three buildings to make its existing emergency preparedness plan even safer. He said residents will see upgrades sooner rather than later.

“These are tense times now, and the safety of students and staff is paramount,” Brosdal said. “We’ve been fortunate in the past, but you can’t take anything for granted anymore.”

“These are tense times now, and the safety of students and staff is paramount.”

— Gordon Brosdal

Some of the upgrades currently being considered include the installation of more security cameras in each building in the district; security films for all windows that deter attackers from gaining access to a building via shooting through glass, buying students, teachers and staff more time to escape in the process; the implementation of identification badges for school staff and different-colored lanyards to be worn in each building to pinpoint outsiders; the hiring of retired law enforcement personnel inside the elementary, middle and high schools — currently the district has two outdoor security guards who monitor traffic entering and exiting the school grounds; and a better monitoring system on the district’s entranceway alongside Route 25A.

“We are having real, hard discussions about this,” Brosdal said. “We also fielded calls from parents last week.”

The district’s existing emergency operations plan, Brosdal said, includes lockdown drills, evacuation procedures and relocation of students from one school to another in emergency situations.

He added that, at Mount Sinai, all visitors must enter the buildings through a security vestibule and are required to show identification and state a reason for entering the building.

He said each building in the district is equipped with the School Active Violence Emergency hotline, an emergency notification system rolled out by Suffolk County in 2013 in response to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012. With the push of a button, the phone systems are programmed to automatically bypass normal communication channels and immediately dial the county police 911 center supervisor. The program displays the school’s location and initiates an immediate dispatch to the nearest available emergency responders.

According to Suffolk Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), who helped launch the system, only 34 out of 70 school districts are equipped with it. However, she hopes that changes in light of the latest tragedy.

“When they send a child to school after events like this, parents feel helpless — they have no control over what happens to their child throughout the day and have no choice but to rely on school and law enforcement security,” Anker said. “So, by working together, this program creates a stronger network of security for students in the schools. As soon as that phone rings, within eight seconds, the response process begins.”

SHOREHAM-WADING RIVER

Over at Shoreham-Wading River Central School District, Superintendent Gerard Poole released a letter to parents the day after the Florida shooting, ensuring that “safety and security for our students, staff and visitors is a daily topic within our schools” and is the first agenda item at each administrative meeting.

“When we hear of these tragedies, we are reminded that our district’s preparedness for any emergency situation is of the utmost importance,” Poole said in the letter. “Each school conducts drills related to evacuation, lockdown and lockout. These drills are observed by our security team and assessed for improvements.”

“When we hear of these tragedies, we are reminded that our district’s preparedness for any emergency situation is of the utmost importance.”

— Gerard Poole

He added that this past summer, the district hired an outside security consultant firm to add an extra level of expertise to its plans, drills and overall preparedness.

In the Emergency Planning Information for Parents tab located on the district’s website, some of Shoreham’s security procedures are outlined: Outside doors are locked when school is in session; security guards are at each school, checking entrances to monitor the district’s access points and perimeters; all school visitors must obtain a pass; and school personnel are required to wear photo ID badges.

“On an ongoing basis, the district is reviewing its use of technology to further strengthen our security plans,” Poole said. “In addition, with the support of our security consultants, the district recently completed a security audit and developed a multipronged plan to further enhance the safety and security of our campuses.”

According to the district, unique variables are occasionally implemented into the drills, like a blocked exit, in order to present a more realistic scenario.

PORT JEFFERSON

“Although teaching and learning is our core mission, families, first and foremost, want to know that their loved ones are safe at school,” said Port Jefferson Superintendent Paul Casciano in a Feb. 15 email. He explained that, in preparedness for a similar situation, emergency drills are conducted regularly at the school, security guards are in place and cameras are installed throughout the district’s property. “We are working collaboratively with the Suffolk County Police Department to identify areas for continued attention moving forward.”

He also said that in the aftermath of the Florida shooting, discussions were held in classrooms for students and efforts will continue to be made to alleviate stress, anxiety and depression in them.

“Internally, we are working with students through a variety of programs and strategies to address their social-emotional health,” he said.

ELWOOD

Kenneth Bossert, superintendent of the Elwood school district, said while he is hesitant to make public any portion of the school’s full emergency preparedness plan, in an effort to shield tactics from the “bad guys,” the district does plan for all types of emergencies on a consistent basis. In cooperation with the Suffolk County Police Department, he said the district conducts a minimum of four scheduled drills per year.

“We’re all in this together.”

— Kenneth Bossert

On the night of the Florida shooting, Bossert made, what he called, a rather lengthy phone call to all parents to share this information and put minds at ease.

“We’re all in this together,” he said.

SMITHTOWN

For better protection against intruders, this school district is equipped with the Raptor Visitor Management System, a web-based monitoring software designed to track visitors and electronically check them against public databases, as well as exterior cameras for all its elementary buildings, according to Superintendent James Grossane. He also said each school building has access-controlled doors operated by a swipe card.

“I want to reassure you that we take school safety and security very seriously,” Grossane said in a letter to parents. “Our schools are a safe place. As a district, we continuously review and improve our districtwide Emergency Management Plan as needed to incorporate any new policies or improvements in security equipment. Additionally, all district staff undergo annual training on the emergency response plan, and students and staff participate in drills throughout the school year.”

Grossane included a website link for the National Association of School Psychologists, and the organization’s document “Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers” for students coping with the recent tragedy.

KINGS PARK

“Even though yesterday’s events seem far away from Kings Park, they are a frightening reminder of the importance of safety and the potential impact of senseless acts of violence.”

— Tim Eagen

Superintendent Timothy Eagen at nearby Kings Park school district also provided information from the NASP website to parents and informed them that psychologists and school counselors were available to students in the days following the tragedy.

In his letter, Eagen urged parents to speak with their children about the importance of reporting concerning activities they might see or hear from other students to adults, as many perpetrators of school shootings tend to leave clues leading up to their eventual rampages. These signs, he said, may include posts to social media relating to weapons, cruelty to animals or any reference to past tragedies, like Columbine.

“Even though yesterday’s events seem far away from Kings Park, they are a frightening reminder of the importance of safety and the potential impact of senseless acts of violence,” Eagen wrote in a Feb. 15 letter. “[But] while the world can sometimes seem out of control, schools are incredibly safe places where children experience security, normalcy, inclusion and connections to positive possibilities. As I have often said, the three pillars of Kings Park are: Pride, service and family. Our collective vigilance will help to ensure that Kings Park remains a safe place to live and raise a family.”

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