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Wallkill Valley TimesSchools look for ways to increase security

Schools look for ways to increase security

School safety has been a heavy topic of discussion since the recent Parkland, Florida school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School which left 17 people dead.

A number of concerned parents are voicing their opinions on their children’s safety. Now, school administration is responding.

A parent of a student who attends Circleville Elementary School brought up the issue during a February 27 Pine Bush Board of Education meeting.

“The world is a changing place,” she said. “What we’ve been doing worked but I don’t think it works anymore. An example: my son goes to Circleville Elementary. Anybody gets buzzed in that building. All you have to do is say, ‘I’m here to pick up Johnny Smith,’ ‘Can I see your ID?,’ you put it up to the camera and you’re buzzed in…”

She inquired about hiring Student Resource Officers (SROs), who are armed, uniformed fully sworn law enforcement officers.

The National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO), a not-for-profit organization founded in 1991, trains SROs to be agents of law enforcement in schools, providing safe learning environments for students. They also often take on the role of an informal counselor, mentor and teacher.

Tim Mains, Superintendent of Pine Bush Central Schools, says he has talked to Town of Crawford Supervisor Charles Carnes inquiring about the cost of hiring SRO’s. He says the administration is open to the idea of employing an SRO in Pine Bush schools.

But, he is reassuring the community of the security already in place in Pine Bush schools. In a letter to Pine Bush parents, Mains says:

“…Our motto continues to be – ‘if you see something, say something.’ When a concern proves credible, we immediately engage our local police agencies, with whom we have excellent relationships. Just two weeks ago, Chief Dominick Blasko of the Town of Crawford Police Department sponsored a conversation among a variety of local and state law enforcement officials along with myself and the district’s head of security. We have been and will continue to be vigilant. Student and staff safety remains priority one in Pine Bush.”

He also provided links to resources for parents to talk to their children about mass shootings, including schoolcrisiscenter.org and the American Psychology Association.

At Valley Central High School, Principal Jayme Ginda-Baxter shared this message to the community:

“…We will continue in our efforts as a district to implement and practice our safety on a regular basis – keeping doors locked, maintain reminders about safety drills etc. It is important for students, parents and staff to be diligent in if they hear something or see something say something to administration or the authorities. Events such as these offer opportunity to talk with our children about the fears and feelings associated with hearing such news. Staff and parents should limit exposure to news coverage for younger children and maintain accuracy in the information for older students and spend time listening to students. Please be aware of any students who may be showing signs of excessive anxiety and contact support staff for help if needed.”

On March 14, hundreds of students across the country will stage a walkout from their schools to peacefully protest gun violence. Dubbed the “National School Walkout,” students will leave their schools at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes to honor the 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Some schools across the nation are threatening to suspend students who take part in the National School Walkout. In a tweet published on February 23, the American Civil Liberties Union referenced the upcoming walkout saying:

“Here’s the gist: Your school can punish you for missing class, just like they always can, but it can’t punish you more harshly for protesting than if you were missing class for another reason. #KnowYourRights.”

During the March 14 National School Walkout, the Pine Bush school district will be holding several assemblies and programs for students. Pine Bush high schoolers will take part in the “Say Something” initiative where they will be trained on how to recognize signs of an individual on social media who may pose a threat to themselves or the safety of their fellow classmates. Pine Bush elementary students will be taking part in the “Start with Hello” initiative that teaches children how to be more socially inclusive and connected to one another.

Both programs are a part of the Sandy Hook Promise, a national non-profit organization led by family members of the victims killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

The March 14 programs kick off National Youth Violence Prevention week, which is taking place from March 19 to March 23.

By Jaspreet Gill

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