Local Schools Continue Focusing on Safety and Security

New Bridgehampton School Principal Michael Miller speaks to the student body during a special assembly to address school safety following the high school shooting in Florida on Friday. Michael Heller photo

Ripples of impact were felt all the way to the East End Monday after a social media threat was made to a school in Queens and was resolved by the New York Police Department. The incident, which was eventually deemed non-credible, contributed to the Southampton School District’s lock-out that day, its school superintendent said in a statement. Its timing came squarely amid ongoing conversations about safety at other area schools following the February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

This week, at Sag Harbor Elementary School, principal Matt Malone implemented new arrival procedures for parents and others attending morning program. Instead of being allowed to stream in relatively freely, parents, guardians and other guests must now enter only through the main lobby entrance before going into the gym. Those who are regular attendees can enter as they regularly do, while new arrivals must check in at security for the standard screening process. The activity will be monitored by the school’s security guards.

“We believe this change supports the safety and security for our children, staff and families,” Mr. Malone said in a letter sent to families on Sunday.

Last Friday, during an assembly for grades six through 12, the Bridgehampton School District reassured students that the school is doing everything it can to keep them safe. School principal Michael Miller reminded students to wear their ID badges, to not hold doors open for other people and to speak to an adult if they see something strange. Superintendent Robert Hauser said the district is considering hiring a security guard.

“A big thing we can all do is not put out misinformation,” Mr. Miller said. “Our biggest concern here is that you feel safe. …The goal is not to make this place a prison. The goal is to make the rules consistent.”

On Monday, when word of the social media threat made its way to Sag Harbor, village police chief Austin J. McGuire addressed it with school officials. The district chose to go about business as usual, but Chief McGuire said if the threat had been specific to Sag Harbor, that would have been a different story.

“We have a very open working relationship and we are constantly talking about this kind of thing,” he said.

The Sag Harbor School District will hold a community meeting on Thursday at 7 p.m. in the auditorium at Pierson Middle-High School to address the topic.

“Please know that as parents and educators, these are not easy times for any of us,” Sag Harbor officials said in a letter announcing the meeting. “We ask that we all work together to maintain a safe and positive learning environment for all of our children.”

A national school walkout is being planned on Wednesday, March 14, to rally for gun control and honor the victims of the Stoneman Douglas shooting. While some Pierson students may be planning to participate in the walkout, which has not been sanctioned by the school district, the Bridgehampton School is planning a peaceful, non-political ceremony honoring the shooting victims that happens to coincide with the time of the national walkout.