Written by Jill Nossa Friday, 25 January 2013 00:00
Keeping children safe from harm is a parent’s number-one priority, and the City of Glen Cove, in coordination with the school district, has been doing its part to ensure the safety of the students, as well as the entire community.
“We are confident we are doing and have done as much as we can do,” said Glen Cove Police Chief William Whitton.
In response to the school shooting in Newtown, CT, the city and the school district took immediate action to secure the schools and assess the security procedures currently in place to see what could be improved. Part of that assessment came in the form of police training at the high school over the winter break.
According to Det. Lt. John Nagle of the Glen Cove Police Department, the police practiced handling various scenarios regarding possible school violence.
Drills are not a new action for the police department, however. Chief Whitton said that the department has been drilling in schools for active shooter response for the past 7-8 years and that the officers are very familiar with the layouts of the school.
He said the community support for their security drills was not as strong in the beginning, adding, “It’s a different world we live in now, with different attitudes.”
In early January, Superintendent Dr. Joseph Laria, Mayor Ralph V. Suozzi, Chief Whitton, the district’s head of security and a representative from BOCES met to discuss what could be done to improve security.
Mayor Suozzi described it as a brainstorming session, going over such issues as who has the authority to take charge in various situations, and how to best “secure our most valuable asset.”
“We are actively engaged and will continue to improve security until we feel satisfied we have reached a level attainable, given the economic resources,” said Mayor Suozzi.
After the meeting, the school district developed a three-pronged strategic plan that pertains to prevention, deterrence, and preparedness and response. Dr. Laria sent an email directing principals to take specific actions to improve security in the schools.
“As we develop a strategic action plan based upon a comprehensive needs assessment, the implementation of the foregoing 12 actions is essential to provide a safer and more secure school environment,” Dr. Laria said in the email.
The actions included:
-Reviewing and implementing the district-wide school safety plan.
-Examining the school’s red bag contents regularly.
-Arranging six lockdown drills every school year.
-Locking classroom doors.
-Formulating a confidential plan to identify students with atypical behavioral tendencies.
-Tightening building entry security.
-Communicating with the GCPD and maintaining regular contact with retired Sgt. Jack McDougal, who was hired by the mayor to act as the liaison between the schools and the police.
-Reaching out to the school district’s safety coordinator.
-Improving school-perimeter security and having a police presence on the grounds.
-Identifying ways to better target-harden the schools.
-Cooperating with the security needs assessment.
-Notifying the superintendent of any untoward incident.
“We’re always proactive regardless of the actions,” said Chief Whitton. “It’s part of our routine patrol strategy to patrol places of worship and schools, any place sensitive to acts of violence. But we have stepped up patrol of the schools.”
He noted that the police department has a good relationship with the schools due in part to participation in the PRIDE program and After 3, and he said that about 12 officers are mentors to students. Because of the relationship, the police have developed an “inroad” to the school population.
“They view us differently than they might otherwise—they look up to us,” Whitton said of the students.
Whitton said it is incumbent on the schools to identify students with behavioral issues. While they feel that no one in Glen Cove has risen to the level of being able to commit a serious action, the schools are always on the lookout for alarming behavior, and will interview the student in question.
“Everyone needs to have their eyes and ears open; if something doesn’t look right, you have to say something.”