Merrick board votes down school guards

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Jodi Turk-Goldberg, who presented the group’s petition to the board, said in a later interview that “Merrick SOS” began when she called a few “moms and dads who seemed passionate about school safety” after January’s Board of Education meeting to join together in calling for security to be improved in the Merrick School District.

“We’re a committee that has met,” Turk-Goldberg said. “There’s about seven of us that are really active. We’ve spoken with the community. We spoke to friends and neighbors … We, as a committee, decided to lobby the board members and Dr. Palma.”

She and other “Merrick SOS” members several times referenced a history of “incidents” that have occurred at Birch, Chatterton or Levy-Lakeside that they say warrant hiring school guards.

“There was an incident last month, when a friend called me and said that some parents had spotted a strange man lurking around Birch,” Turk-Goldberg said. “The school sent out a letter that said, ‘If you see something, say something.’ But how can parents be on the lookout all the time? Parents shouldn’t be responsible for approaching strange men, asking them what they’re doing, getting an accurate description and figuring out who to report it to.”

Michelle Goldstein said she wants to see longterm security solutions. “Unfortunately, we live in a dangerous society,” Goldstein said. “No one is safe. We’re not safe in our schools, we’re not safe in the bank, we’re not safe at Bagel Boss. To say that we need one unarmed person in each school I think kind of minimizes the realities of society … People who commit homicides, who want to commit homicides, are armed.”

A handful of parents said they did not think hiring school guards would be prudent or effective. Mitchell Barber said that there is a greater threat to children in schools from fire or traffic than from an intruder. He advised the board to not overreact to pressure from part of the community, but to take time to deliberate on whether hiring guards would be a wise expenditure of “precious” funding. “Fortunately, the wheels of democracy turn slowly, and we’ve entrusted our elected officials to protect us from ourselves,” Barber said.

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