As another school year begins, new districtwide security measures are being implemented in response to concerns caused by school shootings and other mass shootings that have recently taken place all around the country.
Great Neck Public Schools plans to introduce identification badges for high school students and staff this school year, Superintendent Teresa Prendergast confirmed. Visitors will also have to wear these school-issued badges, which must be on display at all times during the school day and may be required for entry into school-related events.
Prendergast is part of the Districtwide School Safety Team, which was recommended after audits that took place during the 2018-2019 school year by the Nassau County Police Department and Redland Strategies, a private consulting firm. The Districtwide School Safety Team creates the district’s safety plan and updates it each year. Also at the recommendation of the auditors, blue strobe lights were installed in the district’s buildings to signal emergencies.
Construction of security vestibules at the main entrance of each school was also completed over the summer, district Public Information Specialist Colleen Bowler said. The new security vestibules have electronic locks on both interior and exterior doors, intercom buzzer systems, additional security cameras and a secure pass-through for drop-off items.
Visitor guidelines will also be updated for the upcoming school year. Visitors will enter at self-service kiosks, then undergo background checks. They must wear their identification badges. Except for urgent business, visitors will not be allowed into the buildings at arrival time.
The district also released an overview of its approach to mental health, which includes a list of methods for identifying at-risk students. These methods include referrals from teachers, parents and peers, among others. Staff and students will receive annual training in violence prevention and mental health. Staff will review, among other things, emergency procedures, how to defuse hostile situations and how to report violence.
These new security measures come in addition to others that have already been implemented since the 2018 Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, such as additional security personnel and oversized planters in front of schools.
At Great Neck North High School in particular, anybody who wants to enter the building must buzz in at the main entrance. Even students who take the bus to school must go around the building to enter at the main entrance rather than use the entrance next to the bus platform. Only at dismissal can students enter and exit through side doors; if they do so at any other time, an alarm sounds.
At North High, the most recent security policy updates are a continuation of tighter rules under Principal Daniel Holtzman. In his first year as principal in 2017-2018, Holtzman set limits to various student freedoms, including restricting recent graduates’ access to the building around the time of Thanksgiving. A rule like this may have seemed unfair two years ago, but in the post-Parkland era, school security is taking precedence over anything else.