By Donovan Alexis and Karina Gerry
HAUPPAUGE, NY— Extra security measures, which include five armed guards, have been implemented in the Hauppauge school district starting Sept. 5th after the board voted in February to have armed guards patrolling their campuses.
The decision comes in response to school shootings across the country like the Parkland shooting, where the shooter used an AR-15 semi-automatic weapon resulting in a total of 17 deaths this past February. At least 43 people have been killed and 82 injured at schools so far in 2018. At least five school districts across the Island have taken measures to increase the safety of their students, but for some the new measures bring more fear than comfort.
“If a shooter happens to get into the school and god forbid and is able to get the other weapon that these guards have, that could also be bad, but it’s also good that they have defense to protect against,” Michelle Fontana a 14 year old freshman at Hauppauge High School, said concerned about the 1 armed guard that will now welcome her every school day.
“I like that we have the security just in case,” she said. “In the event something does happen we have them,” Sarah Contreras, another 14 year old freshman, said.
Social worker at Hauppauge High School, Colleen Ruffini, noticed a change in the atmosphere at school after the Parkland shooting.
“Yeah I do think that kids were anxious and everything about coming to school after Florida,” Ruffini said. “I think that incident kind of struck people a little differently than some of the others have.”
The armed guards are to be stationed outside of the building.
“You see the guards outside of the building and you figure those are the ones who are armed,” Ruffini said. “I think some people definitely feel safer that there are armed guards there, and I think some people have concerns.”
Families and students were advised via Campus Messenger of the new security guidelines this school year by Hauppauge High School principal, Chris Cook.
“Our routines and procedures have been designed to ensure the building and our students are as safe as possible,” Cook wrote.
The routine starts between 7:00 a.m. and 7:30 a.m., when school personnel are to greet every single student that arrives to the school through the main entryway. During this time, school buses drop off students in the front bus loop and no other vehicles will be permitted in the bus loop until after 7:40am.
Student drivers have now been instructed to park in the South Lot, instead of historically having to park in the North lot.
The fear of a possible school shooting on the Island has been at the forefront of many people’s minds, including Suffolk County Police Department. When asked for a comment, a spokesperson for the department responded saying they have taken a number of proactive measures to increase school safety and reduce response times for emergency personnel for the start of the new school year. These measures include enhancing patrols to school buildings, assigning additional officers to the department’s Homeland Security Section, offering a school resource officer training course and establishing a new mobile phone line that allows residents to confidentially “text a tip” to report threats at school facilities.
“While the use of armed guards is at the discretion of individual school districts, the department has been continuously working with the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association to ensure the safety and well-being of all our students,”a spokesperson for Suffolk Police Department said in an email.
The decision by Hauppauge School District to implement armed security was made without local government intervention. Legislator Leslie Kennedy, of Suffolk County’s 12th Legislative district which oversees Hauppauge, felt that it was something for the parents and the school administration to decide.
“I felt that that was not my position,” she said. “I’m a county legislator—this is the Hauppauge parents decision, and the whole administration’s decision.”
Parents have been made fully aware of the changes to beef up security, however no complaints were ever received by her office over the school board’s decision, Kennedy said.
Suffolk County spent $2 million in July to license the Rave Mobile app which allows the user to alert local authorities with the press of a button.
“Everyone is reacting now to what is going on in the country,” Kennedy said. “There is always a potential that something bad can happen.”