Seaford parents, students want safer schools

Community, officials talk school safety


The Seaford School District is taking steps to upgrade school safety in the wake of the mass shooting at Majory Stoneman High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, in which 17 students and teachers were gunned down.

At the March 1 Board of Education meeting, which was packed with parents and students, Superintendent Dr. Adele Pecora detailed the district’s existing and upgraded safety measures, as well as a new set of procedures that were to be put in place as of March 5.

A number of parents, however, spoke at the meeting, which turned heated at times, calling on the district to do more.

Pecora announced that the district had hired an outside security consulting firm to perform a safety audit, review emergency plans, train personnel and make recommendations for improvements. Before that happens, however, the district will expand its existing security camera system to 128 individual cameras — the locations of which are confidential — and enhance its visitor pass and school ID policy.

To enter a school, Pecora said, visitors must state their purpose for being there and leave identification at the security desk to receive a visitor’s pass, which must be worn at all times. She also said the district has security guards with law enforcement experience, and that school psychologists and social workers are there to help students in need.

“I’m confident that the Seaford School District will continue to provide a safe and secure environment for all students,” Pecora concluded.

Christopher Carini, of Seaford, whose two children attend Manor Elementary School, encouraged the district to sign up for the Nassau County Police Department’s Rave app, which would give the NCPD a direct feed into a school camera system in an emergency. He also suggested that teachers should have panic alarms, and he said he supported arming school guards.

“I have a lot of concerns and possible solutions regarding the safety of our children,” Carini said. “Most important, we only need to look at our neighbors in New Jersey. Last year, New Jersey passed legislation for armed Class III special officers, which allowed school districts to hire armed retired police officers . . . to serve in schools and universities.”

The bill was first introduced after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn.

Matthew Sarter, of Wantagh, spoke later in the meeting against Carini’s recommendation for armed guards, saying more guns were not the answer to ending mass shootings.

“More guns, more problems,” Sarter said to applause. “We’re going to have shootouts in schools now?”

Audrey Saracco, mother of one current and one future Seaford Harbor School kindergartner, founded the Parents for Safer Schools in Seaford, Wantagh and Levittown Facebook group on Feb. 17, only three days after the Marjory Stoneman shooting. The group, which had more than 850 members as of March 4, became a forum to brainstorm school safety ideas and find comfort in the wake of the Florida shooting.

“With institutional awareness, coupled with focused, solution-based parents,” Saracco said, “I feel that the safety and security concerns of the community can and will reach short- and long-term goals in our district.”

Roberta Grogan, of Seaford, said she wondered how district officials would assess the security company that they planned to bring in. She also said she wanted the district to do more to prevent bullying in the schools.

Board President Bruce Kahn said trustees were listening to concerns, but would not answer questions. He said that parents with specific questions should make an appointment with him.

Kahn said that school security is one of the board’s main concerns, and that policies are looked at and re-evaluated regularly, noting, “It’s good to get an outside look at things sometimes.”

Seaford High School sophomore Onike Pinnock, of Wantagh, spoke toward the end of the meeting. “You’re doing stuff to prevent outsiders from bringing harm to us,” Onike said, “but what about insiders? We know how easy it is to bring things to school that shouldn’t be there.”

Her classmates applauded. The board did not respond.

Later, Onike told the Herald that she and other students planned to take part in the March 14 national walkout to protest inaction on gun laws.