It’s members of the Seaford community versus the Seaford school board — and it appears to be a standoff.
Since the Parkland, Fla., school shooting in February, two Seaford parents have been leading the charge to have the Board of Education host a school security town hall meeting with community input, as other Long Island districts have done.
The board has so far refused.
Chris Carini, whose two children attend Manor Elementary School, and Audrey Saracco, the mother of one current and one future Seaford Harbor School kindergartner, mobilized within days of the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Their mission: Educate other parents, learn about the security measures in district schools and find out what other resources are available.
“The community needs answers, and the Board of Ed needs to know what the comunity wants,” Carini said. “At a town hall meeting, the board can explain its plans, talk about options it’s debating and conduct questions and answers with the community. It would be great if they invited local politicians and representatives from the Police Department.”
For her part, Saracco said that some of her questions for the board focus on prevention. “Are they taking the necessary steps in mental health, bullying prevention and monitoring social media, including an anonymous reporting option?” she asked. “Do they see what an important piece of the puzzle this was and still is?”
“We are parents who want answers now,” Saracco added. “I think the town hall-style meeting would certainly aid us in being a little bit more comfortable on where the district is headed.”
Carini and Saracco also started a petition for Seaford residents who want to explore the option of arming retired police officers who already patrol the Seaford schools, after undergoing required training, a mental health exam and background checks. They have collected 141 signatures so far. Last week, Carini said that an informal poll posted on the Seaford Moms and Dads Facebook page showed that the vote was 165 to 20 in favor of their plan.
Saracco started a Facebook group two days after the Parkland shooting called Parents for Safer Schools in Seaford, Wantagh and Levittown. Carini joined, and began posting on the site almost immediately. The group — now topping 900 members — continues to brainstorm ideas for preventing this kind of tragedy from happening in Seaford. Saracco said that the consensus among parents is that the district is not proactive enough.
“We’re seeing other districts do town hall-style meetings and put stronger security measures in place almost immediately,” she said. “We just need to know what [board trustees] are doing. We kind of have to pull the information out of them, and I think that’s where the frustration comes from on a parent’s end.”
Carini first questioned the board at its March 1 meeting, and two days later he sent an email requesting a town hall meeting and asking the board to add a question to the May budget ballot. Residents would be asked whether they would be interested in exploring the idea of arming the retired police officers who work as school security guards.
Board President Bruce Kahn said no to both requests. In a March 8 email response to Carini, Kahn wrote, “As a Board we have a duty to make an informed decision on matters, based on facts, and not rush to judgment on an issue. We are following our superintendent’s recommendation and are having a security consulting firm review our operations and procedures. The report will be reviewed and analyzed by administration. Enhancements and changes to the current security plan will be in part based upon this report.” Earlier this month, the board hired Covert Investigations and Security.
Carini said that hiring a security-consulting firm is a great step, but shouldn’t be the only step. “Community support is essential for any plan to work,” he said.
School districts in Patchogue-Medford, Port Jefferson, Rocky Point and Elwood have held security town hall meetings. The Hauppauge, Miller Place and Mount Sinai school districts have hired armed retired police officers within the past month.
“Seaford Board of Ed has not even had a discussion on the issue,” Carini said. “They won’t take questions, and they won’t let the district vote to explore the option. Why not gauge the interest of the community?”
It’s not just a student who attends a school who is a potential threat, he said. “There are others out there that like to cause harm,” Carini wrote in an email. “Now there are schools that have armed guards [retired police officers] and those that don’t. What school district will they choose? Don’t let our school be a soft target!”
Carini has been in Seaford since 2005. His wife is a lifelong resident. Wherever he goes these days, he said, the number of people supporting arming retired security officers — and asking him to keep going in his fight to beef up security — is “unreal.”
“I think, with open dialogue, many of our concerns and questions can be answered,” said Carini, who is also a vice president of the Wantagh-Seaford Homeowners Association and the director of its Watch Committee. He said his comments on this issue are his, and not those of the association’s board.