Herald Schools

After shooting, North Shore reflects on safety

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Two weeks have passed since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Two weeks of unbearable grieving, two weeks of frustrated debate, and two weeks of determined resistance to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.

Parents, educators and students around the country are asking what can be done to protect their communities. North Shore is no exception.

The district perspective

On Sunday, Superintendent Dr. Peter Giarrizzo sent a district-wide email to parents, students and community members to address school safety. “I wanted to write to affirm that the safety of our staff and your children are my most important priority,” he said.

According to the Nassau County Police Department, 40 out of 56 Nassau County school districts are using the RAVE system, an app installed on school administrators’ phones that alerts police if there is an active shooter or medical emergency. Once the app is engaged, a call is placed to 911, and the police gain access to the school’s security cameras.

Giarrizzo said that although North Shore does not use RAVE, it is currently investigating it. “We will take this opportunity to strengthen our ability to provide children and staff with the space to learn and teach in an environment that is free from violence,” he said.

The student perspective

Giarrizzo also noted the student survivors in Parkland who have mobilized to fight for greater gun control. “I have been so impressed by the resolve, determination and poise of the students of Parkland,” he said. “It’s so important that we, as adults, pay attention to what is being said.”

And North Shore students are speaking up.

Senior Zoe Malin, of Sea Cliff, said she believed the district should establish more uniform safety procedures not just for fires, but for shootings, too. “I would personally love if teachers and students went through safety training together,” she said. “If both students and teachers have the same knowledge about safety procedures, and are trained the same way, maybe there would be a more efficient and quicker group effort to secure the classroom and protect each other if there was a crisis.”

Senior Jacqueline Kaider, of Sea Cliff, acknowledged the complexity of the gun control debate. “Mental health, failure at various levels of government to follow protocols, and other societal aspects all play a role for these incidents to occur,” she said. “Although there are various ideas on how to solve gun violence, I think people need to recognize that we are not as divided as we seem, since everyone agrees that violence needs to be prevented.”

“My initial reaction was complete frustration,” said Amanda Bloom, a senior from Glen Head. “I was devastated and extremely disturbed that yet another school shooting had occurred.” When asked if she felt safe at school, her response was mixed. “I don’t feel safe in the sense that security measures are not always followed or enforced, or not taken seriously,” Bloom said. “We need additional security measures, such as student I.D. cards unlocking the doors in order to enter school in the mornings.”

To show their solidarity with the Parkland survivors, both Bloom and Malin said they would participate in the national high school walkout on the anniversary of Columbine, as well as Glen Cove’s March for Our Lives rally on March 24.

“I am proud to be part of a generation who wants change, and who wants to use their voices to advocate for safer gun laws,” Bloom said.

The parents’ perspective

The North Shore Neighbors Facebook page, which encompasses Sea Cliff, Glen Head and Glenwood Landing, has been abuzz since the Florida shooting, with suggestions on how to improve school safety and relentless debate on how to control guns.

Paul Puskuldjian, a Glen Head parent of four who has one child currently at the high school, also suggested the use of secure student I.D. cards. “Turn student I.D.s into an access card, and have every entry door at the school refitted for electronic access,” he said. “Everyone must swipe cards when they enter and when they leave. This is also a good way to keep tabs on who comes and goes.”

Will Rawald, who graduated from North Shore in 1983, said the internet is to blame. “The problem isn’t guns or Trump or perhaps even misbehaving kids,” he said, “The problem may be Facebook and social media and, I would say, the entire internet as well.”

Rawald, whose eldest child attends Arizona State University, said that two schools in the area had reported false threats on Monday morning, which were suspected afterward to be pranks. “This is no laughing matter,” he said, “no matter what side of the political spectrum you lean on.”

“When I think about what happened in Florida, there are so many things that went wrong, but how did this guy get into the school?” Puskuldjian added. “Why was it that easy?”

Laura Lane contributed to this story.