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Huntington High School

The Huntington girls spring track and field team traveled to powerhouse Connetquot on Tuesday, May 2. 

The Lady Thunderbirds, who had a team with twice as many competitors as visiting Huntington, beat the Lady Blue Devils, 105-34. Despite the score, Huntington had some standout performances. 

Long Distance runner Sophie Bradford, a senior, finished in third place in both the 1500-meter and 400-meter runs, while freshman sprinter Dana Saramago set a personal best in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 19 seconds flat. She placed third in this race.

The Lady Devils are now 2-2 in dual meets this spring and are tied for third in Suffolk League II. 

On May 8, the girls will host Smithtown East in both teams’ final dual meet of the year.  This meet is in advance of the multi-school invitational circuit that will kick off later this month and will determine county and state qualifiers. 

The Northport Lady Tiger volleyball team dunked Huntington on Senior Night last Friday.

It was a straight set affair — 25-22, 25-23, 25-10.

Northport wore pink and blue face paint and streaked their hair pink, as the junior varsity Tigers wore different-colored shirts emblazoned with photos of their favorite seniors. Blue and gold balloons were festooned throughout the gymnasium.

Seniors Kaileigh Baudier, Delaney Karpf, Casey Koenig, Lauren Salmon, Tomi Sandin and Victoria Sheluk were honored, and underclassman Ava Olsen kicked off the festivities with a stirring rendition of the National Anthem.

Northport players from other teams who wrapped up their practices or games, trickled into the gym to see the Lady Tigers improve to 9-3 as they remain in second place behind Smithtown West in League II. Huntington falls to 5-7.

Emma Watts had 10 kills for the Lady Tigers and Olsen 8. Salmon and Sheluck combined for 26 assists.

Northport has one more game left on its regular season schedule. It is home against Whitman on Thursday, Oct. 20. The playoffs will begin the week of Oct. 24 with the Lady Tigers likely beginning the tournament with a home match against an opponent that is yet to be determined.

Huntington is now finished with their regular season schedule and will start the playoffs on the road, possibly against crosstown rival Walt Whitman.

The night of Friday, June 24, found Huntington High School seniors filing into the Blue Devil Stadium for the last time as students.

The high school commencement ceremony celebrated 355 seniors who were awarded diplomas, and it was the 161st for the district.

Seniors Quincy Chery (University at Albany) and Naysa Escobar (New York University) served as masters of ceremony. The duo led the huge crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance before the chamber choir sang the national anthem.

Class of 2022 President Theadora Carnesi, who is headed to the US Military Academy at West Point, addressed her classmates with an upbeat message and told the seniors how proud she has been to serve as their elected leader.

Class Vice President Ashley Genao, who will be attending St. John’s University, followed and announced the Class of 2022 would be gifting all the remaining monies in its coffers to the Class of 2023 to help underwrite its prom next June.

Superintendent James Polansky also addressed the graduates.

“During your time in Huntington, I hope you’ve recognized the importance of your voices, that you’ve felt respected as learners and as people, that it’s okay to agree to disagree and that, above all else, respect, understanding, empathy and kindness are critical elements of any conversation,” Polansky said. “I’ll leave you with words from American fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger: ‘We are in the new age where change is the only constant. I encourage you to embrace it, to be inspired to push the boundaries, innovate and find your own unique ways to set the norms.’”

Senior Meyer, Freshman Deliberti combine for 7 goals, Lamendola and defense shut down Devils

By Steven Zaitz

The schools are separated by about six miles. Their boys lacrosse teams — by much more.

Andrew Miller scores the second of his two third quarter goals in Northport’s semi-final win over Huntington on May 26. Photo by Steven Zaitz

The top-seeded Northport Tigers showed why they are reigning Long Island champions, as they doubled up and dominated the number four-seeded Huntington Blue Devils 12-6 on Thursday, May 26. Northport advances to the Suffolk County Championship game against the Smithtown East Bulls.

After a sleepy and goal-less first eight minutes, Northport even spotted their arch-rivals to the west a one goal lead, as Huntington’s strategy of locking up Northport’s superstar Senior Attacker Michael Meyer seemed to work — initially. But Meyer would find the key.

He exploded for four goals, all of which came in the first half, including a buzzer-beating rocket with two seconds to go before the halftime buzzer. Meyer also had assists on four other goals — a standout performance in a huge playoff game.

Freshman attacker Jack Deliberti had three goals, Jacob Starcke two goals and roving long-stick Midfielder Andrew Miller scored two in less than a minute in the third quarter that restored a five goal Tiger lead and unofficially broke the Blue Devils’ back.

Northport played their usual brand of ferocious defense, forcing Huntington to the outside and lower percentage shots and Tiger Goalkeeper Luke Lamendola registered an eye-popping 16 saves.

It was a complete team effort if there ever was one, and it enables Northport to re-visit neutral site East Islip Middle School to play Smithtown East — the very field they beat Syosset 12-11 to capture the Long Island Title last summer.

“All week in practice, we went over situations where I, or someone else, is locked off and what we were going to do,” Meyer said, who now has 43 goals on the season. “So, we ran one of the plays we worked on, and I was able to get the ball with a short stick defending me.”

He made the short stick dearly pay.

From sharp angles and small windows at which to shoot, Meyer flung balls past Huntington Goalie SammyMac Arner with deadly accuracy over the course of the first 24 minutes.

“Michael is a special player,” said Head Coach Larry Cerasi. “He does everything a coach could ask for and then some. He’s not the most ‘rah rah’ type of guy, but he leads by example and has shown some of our younger guys the way to success.”

One of those younger guys is the ninth grader Deliberti, who like Meyer, has curly brown locks of hair sticking out of the back of his helmet. He scored the first goal of the second half off of a brilliant feed from Meyer,

“When I first came up to the varsity team, I had a little bit of a chip on my shoulder, being guarded by juniors and seniors,” Deliberti said. “But Mike has really took me under his wing and has showed me how to be a varsity player.”

Michael Meyer scored four goals and assisted on four others in Northport’s semi-final win over Huntington on May 26. Photo by Steven Zaitz

Meyer was also showing everybody in attendance why he is complete superstar package.  After Huntington staged a mini-uprising and cut the Tiger lead to 7-4 midway through the third period, Meyer found Tim Kirchner in the middle of the field, who shoveled it over to Miller on the right. The junior Army-commit beat Arner from 20 yards away.  Ten seconds later, Meyer hit Miller on a beautiful diagonal pass right in front of the Devil net. Miller faked high and went low to scoop it past Arner. It made the score 9-4 with the third quarter quickly melting away. The final horn was more than a quarter away, but the game was over.

“That was a big swing right there,” Miller said. “Huntington had just pulled within three and I think it stopped their momentum.”

With a suffocating second half defense and Lamendola snuffing out anything that leaked through, the Tigers ticket to East Islip was punched.

Senior Jacob Starcke scored two in the fourth quarter and Deliberti finished the scoring when he rattled the ball off both posts and behind Arner for Tiger goal number 12. Northport had effectively taken Huntington’s Big Four attackers of Aidan McNulty, Robbie Smith, Liam Lennon and Chris Maichin out of the game with constant defensive pressure. This quartet combined for 183 total point in 2022. Also, part of the winning formula, was Tyler Kuprianchik’s customary dominance at the ‘X’. The future Penn State Nittany Lion won 71% of his faceoffs against Yale commit Anthony Annunziata. Annunziata was second to Kupianchik in faceoff winning percentage in the regular season in Suffolk I.

“Our defense is not only incredibly strong and athletic, but we are also a cerebral bunch,” said Defensive Coach and Northport alum Billy Cordts. “Quinn Reynolds and Andrew Miller are incredibly dynamic. Jack Sandrib and Jack Breckling are experienced and very strong players. Will Flynn is not flashy but does it all, plus Pat Sweeney, who is an incredible athlete. All of these guys made it a very difficult day for their best players (Smith and McNulty).”

Cordts, class of 2003, had to manage some adversity through out the course of the season. But the Tigers have proven to be extraordinarily deep in 2022.

“We lost some starters to injury and didn’t miss a beat. Dan Eagers and Jon Alfiero went down, and they are damn good players. We are all about team and we play for each other and willing to do the dirty work. That’s what enables us to dominate.”

They’ll need to do so for one more game to repeat as Suffolk County Lacrosse League A Champions — against a school that also sits about six miles away, but to the east. Will this one be more competitive? Lacrosse fan across Suffolk County are about to find out.

By Steven Zaitz

The Huntington Blue Devils were three outs away from a lost weekend of baseball.

Down by two runs going into the seventh and final inning on Saturday, May 8, and looking dead in the water, they exploded for four runs off of a leaky Northport Tiger bullpen to steal a 6-4 victory. They were able to salvage a split of their two games on the opening weekend of high school baseball season across Suffolk County.

Senior pitcher Kyle Colleluori threw a complete game and was able to settle in after the Tigers scored three unearned runs against him in the first inning. He finished with six strikeouts and the four runs he allowed were all unearned.

“We showed a lot of heart out there today,” Colleluori said. “I knew the guys would settle down defensively. I have a ton of confidence in my teammates, and I’m glad we got this win.”

Despite Colleluori’s righting of the ship and the defensive improvements they made throughout the game, it was a late and surprising offensive assault by the Blue Devils that stole the show and stunned the Tigers. After senior pitcher Liam Darrigo pitched six brilliant innings of his own for Northport, the Tigers, clinging to a 4-2 lead, brought in Joseph Gonzales to face the bottom of Huntington’s batting order to secure the save.

Gonzales was greeted rudely by a hard hit single by Devil second baseman Alex Bellissimo and then a towering double to right by the lanky first baseman Palmer O’Beirne.  That immediately put the tying runs in scoring position and stirred further activity in the Tiger bullpen.

With one out, Blue Devil senior shortstop Chris Segreti drove in a run with a clean single to left, his fourth hit of the game, cutting the Tiger lead to 4-3. Gonzales was replaced by Dan Thomson, setting up the seminal moment of the game.

Centerfielder Dylan Schnitzer, recently recovered from a broken thumb, stepped in against the hard-throwing lefty Thomson. He sat on a 3-1 fastball and laced it to left center field for a hit. O’Beirne scored easily from third, and Segreti dove headfirst underneath the tag of Northport catcher Richard Kershow to plate the go-ahead run. Schnitzer later scored to give Huntington a 6-4 lead.

“That was a huge hit there by Dylan,” said Blue Devil head baseball coach Billy Harris. “It seems like it’s been two years since we’ve gotten a timely hit like that, so that was a really big moment for us.”

“It was really cool to be in that position and give my team the lead,” said the versatile Schnitzer, whose primary position is catcher, but was playing centerfield on this day. “We wanted to attack their bullpen as soon as possible, because the other guy [Darrigo] was cruising the whole game.”

Northport head coach Sean Lynch believes his decision was the correct one despite the result.

“One of our biggest strengths is our pitching depth and our bullpen,” Lynch said. “Liam was up around 90 pitches and we need him for the entire year to give us length.  If we can’t count on the guys in the pen, then we’re not the team we thought we were.”

“But I feel confident that the guys we brought in will bounce back. In baseball, you blow saves sometimes, and I don’t think any of us coaches feel like we should have done anything differently in that situation.”

The day before

Northport didn’t need the bullpen on Friday Night against Smithtown East as Liam Fodor was brilliant, striking out 11 Bulls batters in a 4-0 complete game masterpiece.  The game was scoreless until the sixth inning when junior shortstop Ray Moreno manufactured a run with a single, advanced on a wild pitch, then a fielder’s choice and scored on a passed ball. The Tigers tacked on three more in the seventh inning, as catcher Mike Catrone and third baseman William Deriso both hit triples and scored.

Huntington ran into a buzzsaw that same night as they fell to reigning Suffolk County champions Connetquot, 7-1. Thunderbird shortstop James Goff had three RBIs, and pitcher Sean Mileti held the Blue Devils offense at bay, giving up only one run on five hits in seven strong. Legendary Connetquot baseball coach Bob Ambrosini, who died this past December from COVID-19 complications, was honored before the game, which was held at Moriches Baseball Complex. Carmine Argenziano, of Deer Park, and Bill Batewell, of Sachem and Bellport, both of whom have also recently passed, were also honored.

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By Steven Zaitz

It has been almost a full 12 months since Tristan Davis, and the Smithtown East boys varsity basketball team, have taken to the hardwood in a game that actually counted.

Despite the layoff, Davis showed not one bit of rust.

The 6’5” junior forward led all scorers with 16 points in the Red Bulls 49-43 victory over the Huntington High School Blue Devils on Wednesday, Feb. 10 at home. He also dominated on the glass and around the rim with 12 rebounds and 7 blocked shots.

“It feels great to be out here again,” Davis said. “It was great to start the season with a win.”

Two of his points came on a monster slam dunk in the second quarter.

“That dunk was fun,” Davis said. “I hope it’s the first of many.”

Smithtown East Coach Al Chandler was pleased with Davis’ offensive output. But he was even more impressed with how active he was in disrupting Huntington’s attack.

“Tristan has worked really hard to get where he is,” said Coach Chandler, who has been part of the Smithtown East program for close to three decades. “His timing is great when it comes to blocking shots. He took them (Huntington) out of what they wanted to do on offense, and he stayed out of foul trouble. I was really happy with how he played today.”

Senior Forward Tom Berdon chipped in 12 points, shooting 55% from the field and guards Ethan Cain and Jack Melore each sunk a pair of three pointers, both finishing with 6 points. Melore is a freshman. The Bulls opened up a double-digit lead early in the second half and held that lead until the final two minutes. The Blue Devils made a late run by forcing turnovers to cut the lead to six but got no closer.

“We need to protect the ball better there and finish,” Chandler said. “We have some work to do, but we’ll get there.”

Kevin Drake led Huntington with 14 points and was 3 for 5 from three-point range. Point guard Adrian Brooks had 13.

The Bulls go on the road to take on Copiague Friday, Feb 12, then play host to William Floyd Feb 14 and rival Smithtown West Feb 16. Unfortunately, no fans are allowed to attend games at this time.

As per the Section XI website, “Due to safety concerns outlined by the Suffolk County Department of Health and physicians on our safety committee, having no spectators at contests will give us the best chance for schools to complete their upcoming seasons,” said Tom Combs, executive director of Section XI. “The health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and support staff are paramount in this endeavor of returning to play.”

From left, Ramon Arevalo Lopez, Oscar Canales Molina, and Nobeli Montes Zuniga. Photos from SCDA.

Three men arrested for allegedly stabbing a Huntington High School student last week are known MS-13 gang members, who entered the country illegally and are Huntington High School students, according to Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini (D).

Ramon Arevalo Lopez, 19; Oscar Canales Molina, 17; and Nobeli Montes Zuniga, 20, were arrested by Suffolk County police Jan. 9 shortly after a 16-year-old male was stabbed during a large fight behind Burger King, located on New York Avenue in Huntington Station. Each of the defendants is charged with one count of second-degree assault, a class D felony.

“While it is unclear what the groups were fighting about, one thing is clear: everyone arrested are confirmed members of MS-13.”

— Geraldine Hart

“While it is unclear what the groups were fighting about, one thing is clear: everyone arrested are confirmed members of MS-13,” Geraldine Hart, Suffolk County police commissioner said. “This incident is a reminder of the gang’s violent ways.”

Suffolk county police officers responded to a 911 call reporting a large fight involving approximately 15 high school-aged students in the rear parking lot of Burger King at approximately 2:30 p.m.

Sini said a group of Huntington High School students went to the fast-food restaurant after school let out and saw six Hispanic males staring at them in a ‘menacing way.’ The teens reportedly felt uncomfortable and left the store but were followed by the group of men that included the defendants. The group allegedly charged and attacked the students while wielding bats and knives, according to Sini, stabbing one teen through the back and injuring a second individual.

The 16-year-old male, whose identity was not released by police, was transported to Good Samaritan Hospital where he was treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

Witnesses reported allegedly seeing the three defendants fleeing the scene in a black 2007 Toyota Scion with a large rear spoiler. Officers Guido, Indelicato and Rodriguez located a matching vehicle nearby shortly afterwards, according to Hart, that contained Lopez, Canales Molina and Zuniga.

The three defendants had blood on their clothing and hands, as well as the vehicle, according to police. Sini said Arevalo Lopez made an admission to the arresting officers that he stabbed the teen, while Canales Molina and Montes Zuniga both allegedly admitted to police they were involved in the fight. Canales Molina had two knives on him at the time of his arrest, including a small one covered in blood found concealed in his boot, according the district attorney. Each of the three defendants have been previously confirmed as MS-13 members by Suffolk County Police Department, according to Sini, and had records in the county’s gang database.

“Just because [Lopez]’s been ‘confirmed’ as a member in an ill-conceived Suffolk County Police Department database isn’t proof of anything. He is innocent of the charges that have been leveled against him.”

—Jason Bassett

“What we know about MS-13 is that they use violence to — in their minds — ensure that they are given respect,” he said. “Certainly, this type of incident fits within the modus operandi of MS-13, which is essentially random and seemingly senseless acts of violence.

Lopez’s attorney, Jason Bassett of Hauppauge, strongly refuted all charges and district attorney’s allegations that his client is or has been involved in gang activity.

“[Lopez] is not an MS-13 gang member,” Bassett said. “Just because he’s been ‘confirmed’ as a member in an ill-conceived Suffolk County Police Department database isn’t proof of anything. He is innocent of the charges that have been leveled against him.”

Montes Zuniga’s defense attorney, Norley Castañeda, declined to give any statement regarding the incident or his possible gang affiliation. Canales Molina’s attorney could not be reached for comment.

All three defendants were arraigned Jan. 10 in Central Islip court before Suffolk County Judge Gaetan Lozito who set bai for each at $35,000 cash or $75,000 bond. No one had posted bail as of Jan. 15.

The incident occurred two days after hundreds of concerned citizens attended Huntington school district’s board of education meeting to address concerns about a New York Times Magazine piece that chronicled the story of an immigrant teen, Alex, who was accused of being associated with MS-13 in some part based on his interactions with the school resource officer and, as a result, deported in July 2018.

Sini said all three defendants are currently enrolled as students at Huntington High School after having allegedly entered the country illegally. The district attorney said his records show Canales Molina was detained by U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement in July 2017 and released from custody by a federal judge in November 2017. Similarly, Lopez was detained by ICE in October 2017, and was released from custody by a federal judge in June 2018.

“Even though we’ve had a lot of success the last couple of years in combating MS-13, it’s important that we remain vigilant.”

— Tim Sini

Huntington Superintendent James Polansky requested additional police presence at the high school the day following the stabbing, according to the police commissioner, and additional officers and resources will be provided as necessary.

Despite this incident and recent media attention, Sini said he remains optimistic about the county’s efforts to crackdown on MS-13 is paying off.

“That’s why you see historic crime reduction in Suffolk County, that’s why you see MS-13 incidents are down significantly when compared to 2015-16,” the district attorney said. “Even though we’ve had a lot of success the last couple of years in combating MS-13, it’s important that we remain vigilant.”

The police investigation into the incident is ongoing and there is the possibility of additional charges being added, according to Sini. The case is being prosecuted by the Enhanced Prosecution Bureau’s Gang Unit.

Huntington High School graduate Landary Rivas Argueta steps forward to speak about the GoFundMe for Alex at the Jan. 7 meeting. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Among the outpouring of emotions by Huntington residents Monday night, were tears and calls on the community to come to the aid of Alex, the Huntington High School student who was deported to his native Honduras in July 2018.

Landary Rivas Argueta, a 2016 graduate of Huntington High School, said he and his fellow Latino community members made a GoFundMe account titled “Justice for Alex” after reading the New York Times Magazine article published Dec. 27.

“I’ve been working closely with Alex’s family and brother, as me and my friends have made a GoFundMe to help the family given everything that’s happened,” he said.

This family is very hard working and have done all they can to try to protect their son.”

—Justice for Alex GoFundMe page

Alex’s family has racked up approximately $25,000 in bills since their son’s plight began between legal fees, transportation costs, loss of wages and providing for him while living in Honduras, according to the GoFundMe site.

“This family is very hard working and have done all they can to try to protect their son,” the GoFundMe page read.

While admitting he didn’t know Alex when he was living in Huntington, Rivas Argueta said he’s gotten involved simply as it’s the right thing to do.

Several other Huntington residents pleaded with Huntington school district administrators to take what actions they can to help Alex.

“Huntington High School must get rid of Operation Matador, reunite Alex with his family, close the detention centers and treat all people of color  with respect,” Huntington resident Susan Widerman said.

Huntington board of education trustee Xavier Palacios said he’s received dozens of emails, phone calls and text messages from alumni ranging from San Diego to New Jersey  asking how they can be of help.

“Few times do I see the outpouring of compassion that I’ve seen in Alex’s case,” he said.

The GoFundMe has raised $1,500 of its $10,000 goal as of 8 p.m. Jan. 8. The page can be found at www.gofundme.com/rehbs-justice-for-alex. Social media updates are being posted under #justiceforalex and #justiciaparaalex.d

Huntington High School. File Photo

An outpouring of anger, tears and frustration rocked Huntington Monday night as hundreds of residents expressed concern about an article published by The New York Times Magazine during the school’s holiday break.

There was standing-room only inside the auditorium of Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School Jan. 7 as parents, teachers and students lined up to address Huntington school district’s board of education in reaction to the Dec. 27 publication of the article, “How a crackdown on MS-13 caught up innocent high school students,” written by ProPublica reporter Hannah Dreier.

The Times article focused on the experience of an immigrant teenager at Huntington High School, named Alex, who was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers in June 2017 for suspected MS-13 gang affiliation. The story alleges Huntington school district’s school resource officer, Suffolk County police officer Andrew Fiorello, provided information and school documents to ICE that led to the student’s deportation in July 2018.

“The issue is very clear: Our classmates are being accused of participating in gang activity on evidence that does not prove their involvement beyond a reasonable doubt,” Steve Yeh, Huntington’s Class of 2017 valedictorian said. “Our school failed to protect our classmate.”

The facts questioned

Brenden Cusack, principal of Huntington High School, was the first to step forward Monday night to refute the magazine piece he claims “mischaracterizes” events portrayed.

“It is a clear misrepresentation of our school and of me, both personally and professionally,” he said. “The story as published is not the full story.”

In the article, Cusack reportedly wrote up Alex for allegedly defacing school property — a calculator — with gang symbols. The article states he informed the student it would be reported to the school resource officer.

Huntington parents and community members give a standing ovation after high school Principal Brendan Cusack’s speech. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

The high school principal did not address the facts behind the immigrant teen’s case before the crowd gathered, citing student privacy laws.

“While it would be simple to argue statements and context in numerous places within the article, it does not change the fact that the events, as presented, are beyond upsetting,” read a Dec. 28 letter issued by the school district in response to the article. “We deeply regret the harm faced by any family in our community who has been separated from a child.”

This sentiment was echoed again by Huntington’s Superintendent of Schools James Polansky Monday night.

“There are many things about it that are deeply upsetting,” he said.

Huntington school district’s staff is not the only source used in the magazine article upset with the portrayals in the piece. Joanne Adam, director of Huntington Public Library, said the article claims its head of security banned students who have been suspended from school for suspected gang activity is untrue.

“It’s not our policy to ban people simply because they might be suspected of being in a gang,” Adam said.

Both library branches, Huntington and Huntington Station, are staffed by in-house security personnel and do not have any specific policies with regards to handling gang violence, according to Adam. In the last four years, she said she could not recall any incidents where Suffolk County Police Department was contacted for any related gang activity.

“If someone is suspected of being in a gang and using the library, they are just as welcome to use it as the next person,” Adam said. “So long as they are coming in and using a library as they should be.”


Immigrant students voice fears

Huntington High School students decried the current atmosphere and actions they’ve seen made by school officials in their interactions with immigrants and students of racial minorities.

“I know what it’s like to be a Latino in Huntington,” Landary Rivas Argueta, a 2016 Huntington graduate said. “It’s not welcoming, it’s not safe, it doesn’t feel like home anymore.”

More than a dozen recent high school graduates, collaborating as the Concerned Alumni for Protecting Our Classmates, say regardless of the factual truths in the Times article they have concerns over the adequacy of services provided for immigrant students and the district’s treatment of racial minorities.

“I know what it’s like to be a Latino in Huntington. It’s not welcoming, it’s not safe, it doesn’t feel like home anymore.”

—Landary Rivas Argueta

“We believe the school administration is responsible for providing a safe environment for all students to learn and grown,” read a Jan. 7 written statement to Huntington’s school board. “We were appalled to discover that not all of our peers felt a shared sense of safety.”

Savannah Richardson is a 2016 graduate who was enrolled in the district’s dual-language program as a Mexican immigrant whose picture hangs on a banner over Jack Abram’s auditorium.

“For years, I believed the [school resource officer] was placed there to protect us,” Richardson said. “I was never aware information shared with the SRO would end up in the hands of ICE.”

Xavier Palacios, a Huntington school trustee who privately practices as an immigration attorney, was quoted in the Times article. He said the information sharing was between the district’s school resource officer and ICE was not done with purposeful intent to harm.

“What happened to Alex was an unfortunate series of events of unintended consequences — I don’t think anyone meant to harm him,” Palacios said. “The truth is procedures failed Alex and possibly other students and we must change that.”

But Huntington parent Josh Dubnau said he first reached out to Huntington’s administration via email with concerns about the relationship between Suffolk’s school resource officer program and ICE over the summer, following a PBS “Frontline” documentary titled “The Gang Crackdown,” regarding treatment of immigrants and suspected MS-13 members, that ran in February 2018.

After several email exchanges with Polansky, Dubnau said he was reassured the district’s students safety was protected without a loss of rights.

“My trust in you [Polansky] at that time is something I deeply regret,” Dubnau said. “This school board and administration needs to re-earn our trust and it will be a challenge for you to do so.”


Suffolk’s SRO program

Polansky said Huntington school district has been involved in the county police department’s school resource officer program for more than 15 years. The program places uniformed police officers inside public school buildings to serve as points of contact between the school district, its staff and students, and other law enforcement officials in order to increase school safety.

“I think the role of law enforcement in schools in today’s political climate is open to considerable debate.”

— James Polansky

“I think the role of law enforcement in schools in today’s political climate is open to considerable debate,” the superintendent said.

Polansky sits on the executive board of Suffolk County Schools Superintendents Association, an organization of school administrators representing the county’s 69 school districts. The association has repeatedly called on the police department to further expand the SRO program, most recently as part of its blueprint for enhancing school safety.

“Part of our mission is to keep schools and campuses safe,” Elwood Superintendent Kenneth Bossert said in a phone interview. Bossert is president of the county schools superintendents association. “Having a strong collaborative relationship with the police force and having officers present in the building who are familiar with the campus, familiar with emergency response plans, familiar with faculty and students, go a long way to ensure the safety of our students.”

School resource officers are employees of the police department, not the school district, and there is no formal agreement as to the position’s duties and responsibilities, according to Bossert.

“I think those folks who right now have some real concerns about the presence of police officers don’t necessarily have an understanding of that job,” he said. “If they did have a better understanding of the role and responsibilities of an SRO it would help alleviate some of the concerns being expressed in my neighboring community.”

The superintendents association has called for formal written document of an SRO officer’s “role and responsibility” dating back to a May 2018 letter sent out to Suffolk Executive Steve Bellone (D) and the police department. Still, nothing concrete has been developed as to date.

“We need clarity and guidelines. If we can’t get those, I am not comfortable having those officers in our buildings going forward.”

— Jennifer Hebert

“We need clarity and guidelines,” Huntington trustee Jennifer Hebert said. “If we can’t get those, I am not comfortable having those officers in our buildings going forward.”

There is no law mandating that school districts participate in the SRO program, according to Bossert, but he is not aware of any district that has voiced opposition to being a participant.

“I urge this board to carefully consider any decisions and weigh the long-term consequences  against the perceived short-term benefits,” said James Graber, president of the Associated Teachers of Huntington. “A year ago, there were calls for more security in this school district because of the incident in Parkland [Florida]. To move in the other direction would be a mistake.”


Future of SRO program in Huntington

Huntington school administrators said they’ve seen the immediate need to review its existing policies and procedures, particularly when it comes to the role of its school
resource officer.

“In light of current national and local concerns, however, we believe that we must advocate for an additional layer of organization addressing the relationship between school districts and the police department,” read the Dec. 28 letter to the community. “This can be accomplished through formulation of a memorandum of understanding.”

Huntington parents and community members came to the meeting Jan. 7 armed with a detailed list of suggestions of what should be in the proposed agreement between the school district and Suffolk’s police department.

Diana Weaving, of Huntington, presented school trustees with detailed suggestions from a concerned citizens group regarding the treatment of immigrant students and the duties of the SRO officers. It suggested the memorandum of understanding includes extensive data collection including the number of times law enforcement is called to Huntington schools, number of arrests, which arrests were school-related offense, the location and date of offense and note of the involved student’s age, race, ethnicity, gender and English language learner status.

In light of current national and local concerns, however, we believe that we must advocate for an additional layer of organization addressing the relationship between school districts and the police department.”

— Huntington school district Dec. 28 letter

Weaving requested the district provides SROs, security guards and school staff with more extensive training in cultural competency, racial bias and prejudice, and restorative justice.

Aidan Forbes, Huntington’s Class of 2018 valedictorian and member of Concerned Alumni for Protecting Our Classmates, called for more in-depth investigation of a student’s character before they are reported to an SRO along with changes to the district’s suspension policies. Zach McGinniss, also a 2018 graduate, demanded more cultural training for SROs and issued a request the school district not share student’s information with third parties — including ICE — without court order or consent of a student’s parents.

All involved called for a written contract, or memorandum of understanding, to be drafted as soon as possible. The superintendent said it will necessitate a process involving community input to draft an agreement, and it will require both Suffolk police department and the school district to come to the table. He cited some Nassau County school districts which have documents that can be used as examples, but each must be uniquely catered to each individual district.

Polansky said he envisions the proposed document could be used as a template that could be used by other Suffolk schools. Trustee Hebert agreed, saying Huntington must make every possible effort to transform the SRO system into a better program.

“I see us as being given the mandate of having to figure this out for everyone else,” Hebert said. “And we will.”

Huntington school board will further discuss the SCPD’s SRO program at their upcoming February meeting.

Huntington High School students have given a presidential gift to the Town of Huntington that is already being called “timeless.”

Huntington town officials unveiled a new historic marker Sept. 21 in Municipal Lot 49 on New York Avenue commemorating a speech given during the town’s 250th anniversary celebration in 1903 by former President Theodore Roosevelt’s (R).

“In doing so today, we are not only honoring the president who came to address the residents of our town, but the importance of the legacy he left behind,” said Katelyn Sage, a senior at Huntington High School.

Roosevelt’s visit wasn’t only very powerful because he was a sitting president coming here for the anniversary of a great town, but he also started the study of historical remembrance here in Huntington.” 

— Chad Lupinacci

Sage and Huntington senior Luke Farrell have worked together during the past year to research Roosevelt’s 1903 visit to Huntington with Joseph Levy, Huntington school district’s chairman of humanities. After hours of research, the students learned a committee of local women searched through attics, basements and barns to pull together a collection of artifacts from the town’s Colonial era ahead of the presidential visit, according to Sage. The committee and collection served as the foundation of the current Huntington Historical Society.

“Roosevelt’s visit wasn’t only very powerful because he was a sitting president coming here for the anniversary of a great town, but he also started the study of historical remembrance here in Huntington,” Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said.

On the Fourth of July in 1903, Roosevelt gave a speech praising civic-minded virtues to a large crowd gathered in an empty field now near the intersection of New York Avenue and Gerard Street in Huntington. It was reenacted by Theodore Roosevelt impersonator Leer Leary at the unveiling ceremony Sept. 21. A short excerpt is also written on the historic marker.

“In civil life, we need decency, honesty. We are not to be excused as people if we ever condone dishonesty,” the supervisor said, reading the selected Roosevelt quote. “That’s advice to heed for our representative government at all levels, whether it’s the local level, state level or national level.”

In civil life, we need decency, honesty. We are not to be excused as people if we ever condone dishonest.”

— Theodore Roosevelt’s 1903 speech

Roosevelt was only the second sitting president to visit Huntington, according to Lupinacci, after George Washington, who dined at the former Platt’s Tavern in 1790. No sitting president has visited the town since. A traditional blue-and-gold historic marker was erected in 1932 by the New York State Education Department near the intersection of Park Avenue and Route 25A to mark Washington’s visit.

“Luke, Mr. Levy and I have researched and organized this project in order to commemorate an important historic event that not only happened in our town, but has yet to be acknowledged,” Sage said.

The marker commemorating Roosevelt’s visit, funded by Huntington High School’s student government, bears a different design. The students choose to install a plaque that displays a black-and-white photo of the occasion, the quote from Roosevelt’s speech and a short caption describing the historical significance of the event.

“I congratulate them for doing a wonderful job commemorating a period from 115 years ago,” Town historian Robert Hughes said. “The quote they selected reflects modern-day America as well. This is a timeless historic marker.”