Outside the steps of the Mineola Middle School, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and Nassau County Police Department (NCPD) Commissioner Patrick Ryder, as well as various members of the NCPD, recently discussed the importance of school safety ahead of this year’s school opening.
“Nobody in my house is excited about back to school, but we in Nassau County are ready,” said Curran. “We’re ready to open schools working very closely with our superintendents and principals, and with our private school community as well. Our shared goal is to make sure that this school year is as safe as it can possibly be. This isn’t something that we just start thinking about in August. It’s something that we focus on 12 months of the year.”
All of the county’s school buildings have been assessed for security while personnel in each building have been trained by the NCPD on the chance there is an active shooter situation or other emergency. A valuable tool that all 56 school districts, along with private schools, have at their disposal is the RAVE app, which helps to reduce response time in an active shooter situation.
“Since 2000, 75 percent of school shootings have happened within a period of five minutes or less,” explained Curran. “The more you can reduce response time, the more lives you save. It’s an incredibly wonderful tool and we’re blessed to have it. Another initiative that we’ve had is that we make sure that the police officers visit school buildings regularly so they know what the layout of the building is. There’s this familiarity of the schools so they’re not walking in blind during an emergency. We have a wonderful police department that works incredibly hard.”
The Garden City UFSD is equally prepared to address maintaining a high level of safety for its students and staff according to Dr. Kusum Sinha, Superintendent of Schools.
“Our district continues to take steps to enhance building safety and security. Garden City’s entire bus fleet has been outfitted with cameras and GPS systems, and all school buildings now have a ‘one-button’ lock-down system. Any school throughout the district can now initiate a lock-down and notify the police using a single button in a true emergency. We are in the process of implementing a new visitor management system to improve our screening process for anyone entering our buildings,” Sinha explained. “Our security consultant will also work with our district on a full-time basis for the 2019-20 school year to offer expertise to our staff, address individual safety needs and ensure that all buildings follow proper security protocols and procedures.”
Another tactic that the NCPD implements is to monitor social media for any possible red flags or for any possible issues regarding overall safety. The county is in constant contact with school superintendents as well as many private, Catholic and Jewish schools. Ryder said that at every single school board meeting or town hall meeting that he attends, he’s always asked about what the police department is doing about school safety.
“We plan, we prepare, we train, we integrate technology like the RAVE app, but we need to do more,” said Ryder. “We always need to do more.”
The Garden City Police Department is also vigilant in working with the school district to ensure that all parties involved are on the same page in terms of school safety.
“The department will be deploying extra patrols in and around the schools enforcing traffic infractions that affect the safety of students, including speeding in a school zone and passing a stopped school bus,” Commissioner Kenneth Jackson explained. ““We also assigned officers to visit each school to meet staff to review security issues and to greet students. We also attended a school district security meeting with the superintendent and her staff.”
Sinha also encouraged residents to reinforce the message of safety with their kids.
“We encourage parents to speak with their children about the importance of making safe choices and remaining vigilant when they are not under the supervision of an adult.”
Dave Gil de Rubio also contributed to this story.