By Mark Hallum
In light of the shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., which left 17 students dead, two Bayside-elected officials are asking the city Department of Education to rethink its policy toward locking the front doors of schools.
The DOE requires school administrations to keep front doors unlocked, which state Assemblyman Edward Braunstein (D-Bayside) and City Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) say is a safety issue because it allows people to enter schools at their own discretion.
“Current DOE policy requires that school principals keep the front door of their school unlocked during the day. This allows an individual to enter the building before a determination can be made if they represent a danger or not. This deviates from the practice at many private schools where visitors must ring a bell and announce themselves before being permitted entry,” Braunstein said. “Granting public school principals this same authority to confirm whether or not an individual represents a threat before allowing them into a school could prevent dangerous incidents from taking place. It is a change we must consider.”
Vallone cited an incident where a suspicious man had entered PS 184 in Whitestone multiple times and kept being escorted out by security, calling it exhibit A for why the DOE should rethink its policy.
“When it comes to our students’ safety, we need to be proactive, not reactive, and principals should have the autonomy to decide when they think it is appropriate to pre-emptively lock their school entrances,” said Vallone. “Incidents like the one at PS 184 clearly show that our students are not as safe as we think and changes need to be made to make sure that they can learn and grow in the safest environment possible. This request is just the first step in a series of changes that must be made. This must remain our top priority from here on out as we lead the charge for safety in our schools.”
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall