With the fatal shooting of at least 17 victims at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, this past Valentine’s Day—the country’s 18th such incident already in 2018—officials are busy assuring parents of safety and security measures in place at local school districts.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran led a press conference the day after the incident at Carle Place High School along with Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder and Carle Place Superintendent of Schools David Flatley, who is also President of the Nassau County Council of School Superintendents.
“Yesterday was a stark reminder of what our schools and communities are up against. I’m confident our police departments are working with school districts to do what they have to do to make sure our kids are safe,” said Curran, while assuring parents that Long Island schools are a safe place. “I want them [parents] to be reassured our school districts and police departments are communicating and we are going to make sure our cops have the resources they need to handle this sort of event and they are working with our school districts.”
According to Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder, there are 56 school districts in the county and 450 school buildings—in 109 of those buildings, and 19 more next week, there is a system in place called Rave Alert, a mass notification system.
“We’re moving in the right direction to better protect our schools,” said Ryder, who explained that with Rave, the touch of a button alerts police to an active shooter situation and immediately dispatches cars to the scene. “As schools sign up for Rave, many sign up to give us access to school cameras and IP address.”
The shooting in Florida involved a student that according to published reports had disciplinary problems and who other students predicted would probably show up at the school one day with a gun. The shooter, Nikolas Cruz, was reportedly adopted by a couple originally from Farmingdale. Both parents are deceased.
Carle Place Superintendent David Flatley said that preventing such incidents involves developing relationships between students, parents, the police and the community at large.
“All those relationships are primarily there to help us be safe,” he said. “And secondarily, should there be some unfortunate incident when students or faculty members get hurt, they’re there to help us put plans in action we’ve worked on for years. We’ve worked on those plans together to keep everybody safe and respond to a difficult situation appropriately.”
In recent years, schools across the island have altered safety drills beyond the standard fire evacuations, to include lockdown drills. Administrators meet monthly and all staff are trained in safety and security protocols.
In a letter mailed to parents following the Florida shooting, Garden City Public Schools said, “Administrators hold monthly meetings to ensure that all schools are following proper safety and security procedures. Each building holds unannounced evacuation and lockdown drills at regular intervals so students and staff are well-practiced in emergencies on school grounds, as well as on our buses.”
As for the bigger picture of preventing a shooting entirely rather than reacting to one after it has begun,
New York State PTA president Gracemarie Rozea called for increased mental health services for students, while supporting Governor Andrew Cuomo’s allocation of $250,000 for school-based mental health programs.
“We support increased mental health services and programs for improving school culture, climate and safety,” she said. “Our mission has never been clearer—to support every child, with one voice, to ensure every child is safe in school and at home.”