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‘Do the right thing’: Queens councilwoman calls for increased security for children, staff as school year starts

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Councilwoman Joann Ariola takes her grandsons to their first day of school in Howard Beach Tuesday morning. (Courtesy of Ariola’s office)

As city schools reopen for the new year, Councilwoman Joann Ariola dropped her grandkids, Antonio and Angelo, off at P.S./M.S. 146 in Howard Beach Tuesday morning, Sept. 6, just a week after she called on Schools Chancellor David Banks to lock the entrances to all educational facilities this year.

In a letter to Banks, Ariola wrote about a meeting she held with her constituents, NYPD officials and educators shortly after the mass school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, where she proposed using a camera-style doorbell that would alert school safety agents of visitors. This would allow them to buzz in or communicate with any visitors to school grounds.

Her proposed system would benefit anyone who might be at risk outside the school building and seeking safety by allowing safety agents to properly assess threats and allow those in need to enter the building.

“Our children are our most precious gifts,” Ariola said. “We must take every measure we can to ensure their safety while they are in our schools. I am urging the chancellor to do the right thing for students and staff.”

In addition, Ariola said that all school personnel should be trained on how to use the system should the need arise for someone other than a safety officer to be put in charge at the door. During a press briefing on Wednesday, Banks said locking the front doors at public schools is one of the safety measures that are being considered by the Department of Education.

“We have been alarmed by the number of weapons brought into our schools, more than we’ve seen in the past. We see it as a direct correlation to what the students are feeling outside of our schools,” Banks said. “We have been exploring for months now various options that will allow us to even actually lock the front doors. We are absolutely looking at the issue around the front doors themselves.”

Implementation of the locked front door safety measure is still being studied, but in the meantime, the DOE is hiring additional school safety agents; working on enhanced safety training for principals and assistant principals; building response team leaders in the case of an emergency; increasing real-time communication; and conducting a comprehensive citywide safety assessment.

“When a parent kisses their child goodbye in the morning, they trust that their child will be both emotionally and physically safe at school,” Banks said. “This administration is prioritizing the reimagining of our commitment to supporting the whole child from the day they enter our schools to the day they graduate.”

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