Ratcheting up school security in the Five Towns


Most Five Towns schools and districts have yet to man their campuses with armed guards as at least three Long Island schools have nor has New York state gone as far as Florida did in becoming the first state in the nation to require police or armed guards at all public schools after the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 people were killed in Parkland, Fla.

However, at least one private school in Lawrence was looking for and possibly hired an armed guard. A help wanted ad was placed in the classified section of Herald publications during the summer asking for an “armed retired law enforcement” for $25 per hour. The company, Brooklyn-based City Investigations & Security Inc., did not comment on which school it was or even if the position was filled.

The private schools the Herald contacted, Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway, Rambam Mesivta High School and The Brandeis School would not say if it was their institution looking for an armed guard. The Sh’or Yoshuv Institute, also in Lawrence, did not respond to an email inquiry.

“We do not comment or discuss school security policies or protocols,” said HAFTR spokeswoman Leslie Gang. HAFTR’s early childhood, lower and middle schools are at the Lawrence campus. The high school is in Cedarhurst. “We have many different levels of security, I can’t disclose specifics,” said Rabbi Zev Meir Friedman, Rambam’s dean.

The public school districts, Hewlett-Woodmere and Lawrence, remain nearly as circumspect, but do have to disclose a little more information as they are taxpayer-supported institutions.

Hewlett-Woodmere has campus patrol included in an overall $9.1 million budget for facilities, operations and safety. Hewlett High School, Woodmere Middle School, Franklin Early Childhood Center and Hewlett and Ogden elementary schools, along with the Woodmere Education Center have security and are patrolled by people on foot and in a vehicle.

Officials would not go into detail regarding security and referred the Herald to presentations on safety and security that were made at past Board of Educations meetings. “We feel any specificity regarding our security team or measurers compromises the safety of our students, staff and visitors,” said spokeswoman Barbara Giese.

Lawrence is expected to pay Summit Security Services Inc. $531,100 for the 2018-19 school year. Superintendent Dr. Ann Pedersen would not disclose what exactly what the Uniondale-based company is doing because of pending litigation. The union for the former security aides challenged the district’s right to upgrade. The appeal is yet to be decided. “Our objective is safety and security, and the security of our perimeters,” Pedersen said.

Across Long Island strengthening school security has become more common. Newsday reported that the Massapequa School District’s board approved hiring armed guards this summer.

In Suffolk County, Miller Place hired four retired New York City Police Department officers barely two weeks after the Parkland shooting as armed guards to supplement the existing 14 unarmed security people. Mount Sinai also hired four armed guards, one for each building, not long after the Parkland shooting. Officials said that parents supported the hirings.

Have an opinion about schools having armed guards? Send your letter to the editor to jbessen@liherald.com.