School officials in Malverne and West Hempstead face those same questions every day: How do they not only keep weapons out of school buildings, but identify at-risk students and address their needs?
The answers, obviously, are not easy to come by. Malverne Schools Superintendent James Hunderfund told the Herald that the district’s schools do the “normal screening and follow-up” on students with their own guidance counselors, social workers and psychologists, and that no new programs have been added in response to the shootings in Connecticut. Hunderfund added, however, that these programs are reviewed regularly, and changes are implemented when they are deemed necessary.
Assistant Superintendent Richard Banyon said that despite fiscal problems and the state’s 2 percent property tax cap, there have not been large staff layoffs in the mental health arena. The district has lost one full-time psychologist and one guidance counselor in the past year, but managed to bring back a part-time psychologist.
“You try and do everything to meet all the unfunded mandates,” Banyon said. “We have a delicate balancing act. You want to ensure a safe and valid education for everybody, to meet all individual needs, but you have to work within budget constraints and mandates, which is not always easy.”
He added that the Malverne schools have developed an “environment where violence is not rampant, where we connect culture to character and character to conduct.”
“We take student safety very seriously,” Hunderfund said.
Officials from the West Hempstead Union Free School District had not returned calls seeking comment as the Herald went to press.