Lawrence High School locks up in school safety crackdown

A Summit Security guard patrols the halls of Lawrence High School on Friday, Feb. 8.

By Frank Gargano and Duffy Zimmerman

Lawrence High School administrators in Nassau County fully implemented a dropbox system as the most recent policy to limit outsider access to the building last week.

The original concept involved a physical dropbox that allowed parents to deposit items without entering the school. Administrators concluded last week in a collaborative meeting that drawstring bags would substitute perfectly for the box.

“We decided to create a protocol in which the item would be given to the security guard at the [parking lot] gate,” Christian Paulino, an Assistant Principal at Lawrence High School, explained. “Then that security guard will, when they are done with their rotations or assignment, bring it to the main lobby and have the security guard in the main lobby call the student down.”  

This past December, a seventeen-year-old student was shot and killed about a mile from Lawrence High School. Several Long Island schools, including Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School in Nassau County, received bomb or gun threats last February.  

These threats, although stopped or unfounded, came in the days following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 students and staff members dead. Administrators indicated that new security policies were implemented in response to such violence.

“I think that we’ve had some unfortunate events around the world in schools where the security has become a major priority, so a lot of the things we are doing are to keep students safe,” John Ballantyne, another Lawrence High School Assistant Principal, said.

The delivery policy keeps unapproved individuals from entering during the day, but several other new security measures verify that people in the building are meant to be there. Now, over 100 cameras line the hallways and stairwells, while several security guards and roughly nine teachers patrol the halls throughout the day.

Some upperclassmen are annoyed that privileges allowed to prior graduating classes were taken from them. “The problem I have, as a senior, is it literally feels like a prison in here,” Jackie Blyudoy, a student at Lawrence High School, said.

Blyudoy explained that previous seniors were allowed to enjoy free periods outside the school without needing as much approval. As student government officer, Blyudoy suggested an alternative procedure with permission slips kept on file to maximize available free time. The process has not changed.

Although some students find the new rules uncomfortable, Pamela Libby, Parent-Teacher Association President and mother of a Lawrence High School student has a different opinion. “The administration is trying really hard to keep our kids safe at school” she said.

Two weeks ago, Lawrence began requiring IDs to be worn at all times in the building. Hewlett High School, a similar school about three miles away, also has this policy. Guards stand at the main entrance each morning to scan IDs, which were issued through a company called ScholarChip. Students must also show these cards upon request if they are found in the halls during class time.

While a few students find this rule irritating, many concede that this is a positive step.

“Although people don’t want to do it, I don’t think they realize that anyone can walk into this school,” Madeline Michel, a senior Lawrence student, said. “I used to see random people just walk into the building because the doors were just open.”

Faculty members have acknowledged that there are still flaws in the new procedures.

“I feel like it’s a step in the right direction, knowing who’s in the building,” Kristen Weinstein, an English teacher at Lawrence, said. “Are there kinks in the system? I’m sure. Everyone can always find the loopholes.”

 

About Frank Gargano 1 Article
Frank Gargano is a third-year student at Stony Brook University where he is pursuing a bachelor of arts in journalism and a specialization in business. He grew up in Atlantic Beach, New York and graduated from Lawrence High School in 2016. Gargano also serves as the business executive for The Stony Brook Press, an on-campus publication that covers everything from news to culture beats. As well as his current position, he is a Dow Jones News Fund alumni where he wrote for American Banker and covered topics like succession plans at banks and community banking mergers and acquisition activity.