At a Community Education Council (CEC) District 24 meeting last Tuesday at PS/IS 87 in Middle Village, parents insisted that DOE officials need to do more to keep their children safe in the event of a shooting, such as those that took place in Parkland, Florida, and Newtown, Connecticut.
Parents specifically asked for the front doors of schools to remain locked, and for an armed officer stationed at public schools.
Mark Rampersant, the DOE’s safety director, told the crowd that it has been DOE practice to keep the front doors unlocked “for as long as I can remember.”
In addition to schools being a community space, Rampersant said locked doors would take time away from first responders entering in case of an emergency, and would lock out students who wish to access the school.
“The DOE’s policy will remain as it stands,” he said.
Parents were unhappy with that answer. Lucy Accardo, co-president of CEC 24 and a mother of four children in the district, suggested that school principals should have discretion on whether or not to lock their schools.
“Times have changed, Sandy Hook has happened,” she said. “It’s an unacceptable answer.”
Rampersant responded that principals “will not make these decisions on their own.”
“All you’re doing is giving us the same nonsense,” added parent Mariann Miller.
At last month’s meeting, the council recommended a series of policy changes, including locking school entrance doors from the inside, additional school safety agents, adding video surveillance systems and placing armed police officers at each school building.
Last Tuesday, some parents suggested installing bulletproof doors and windows, as well as metal detectors in each school. But Rampersant said metal detectors is every school isn’t the solution.
Instead, the DOE official said the answer is to instill trust in students to speak up to adults when they see something, such as a gun at a school.
By the end of the meeting, frustrated parents got up and suggested calling local elected officials to change the law.
“They’re useless,” one parent said of the DOE officials.
Lawmakers have pushed legislation that would give principals discretion to lock school entrances. Assemblyman Edward Braunstein and Councilman Paul Vallone, both of Bayside, have already suggested the policy change.
“Granting public school principals this same authority to confirm whether or not an individual represents a threat before allowing them into a school could prevent dangerous incidents from taking place,” Braunstein said in a statement. “It is a change we must consider.”
Vallone added that when it comes to student safety, lawmakers must be “proactive, not reactive.”
“This request is just the first step in a series of changes that must be made,” he said. “This must remain our top priority from here on out.”
At the State Senate level, State Senator Joseph Addabbo has introduced a bill mandating all doors leading into city public schools be locked.
“This simple and easy-to-implement safety measure would require visitors to be screened before they can enter the building,” he said in a statement.
DOE spokeswoman Miranda Barbot said all school doors in school buildings are locked and alarmed except the front door, which is monitored by school safety agents. According to the DOE's Visitor Control Procedure, visitors stop at the security desk and are asked to present a valid form of identification to be signed into the building.
"Schools are safe havens," Barbot said in a statement, "and we work in close partnership with the NYPD to support each school community in ensuring the safety of every school building."