Parents and students filled the auditorium of the East Meadow School District’s administrative building on Feb. 27 for a Board of Education meeting that addressed school safety in the wake of the Feb. 14 shooting that left 17 dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
Attendees were invited to voice their concerns, and Erin Schmidt, a mother of two children in district schools, urged administrators to bolster security, pleading, through tears, “I don’t want to be the next news story.”
Superintendent Kenneth Card explained that the district maintains crisis-management teams and school safety plans for each of its nine schools, and each building is monitored by security guards and has a single point of entrance.
Nonetheless, several parents argued that this was not enough to keep their children safe. Ashley Tracey, of East Meadow, said that when picking up her son, she was allowed to enter a school building with no identification when she told the guard she was a parent. “I don’t fit the description of a shooter,” she said, “but who’s to say I’m not?”
Eileen Napolitano, a longtime East Meadow resident, asked Card how students are warned of emergencies if they are not on campus and risk returning to one. The superintendent ex-plained that the district would be launching a visitor identification and staff and student tracking system at several campuses this spring. When staff members or students leave campus, they will sign into the tracking system with their contact information and can be notified in the event of an emergency.
“Let’s not lose sight of the fact that this is a wonderful community,” Card said, “but we need to care about the kids and the families that are here.”
According to Card, the district is also evaluating its safety measures, and plans to implement several additional policies in the coming years, with the priority of improving the relationship between law enforcement and the schools.
In Nassau County, police can respond more efficiently in response to an active-shooter situation using a school safety alert network called Rave Mobile Safety. Twenty of Nassau’s 56 schools are connected to the Rave system, according to Detective Lt. Richard LeBrun, the NCPD’s public information officer, and Card said that East Meadow is considering being added to it.
Many parents wanted to know how the district would handle the March 14 rally in commemoration of those who died in the Florida shooting. Students and school employees across the county plan to walk out of their classrooms for 17 minutes at 10 a.m. that day to protest inaction on guns by Congress.
“We can’t engage in political speech,” Card said, “but we do recognize that students should have a voice and demonstrate their sympathy for the 17 victims of the Parkland shooting. And we will ensure they are safe in doing so.”