HARRISON, N.Y. – Concerned parents were reassured Wednesday night that the Harrison Board of Education and Superintendent Lou Wool are doing everything they can to make school safe for their kids.
“I view this essentially as a home for your kids when they’re not at home,” said Wool. “I have the rights and responsibilities as a parent. And just like your house, I have the responsibility to secure that house and to make it as safe as possible.”
Since the deadly shooting in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, Wool has met with Mayor Ron Belmont and Harrison Police Chief Anthony Marraccini, who was at the meeting. They discussed how to enhance school safety and took tours of the buildings with two security consulting companies. Wool expects a report from one of the consulting companies by the end of the week.
“The district did not start paying attention to security as a result of Newtown,” said Wool. “I’m not here to tell you we’re making changes because of Newtown – that would be dishonest. We are revisiting everything that we’ve always done because of Newtown. Some of the things that we thought were best practice may be modified based on our police input.”
Wool supports the return of the School Resource Officer program at the middle and high school level, which Marraccini believes in strongly as well. Resource officers are placed in the schools not to provide security but to connect with the students.
Although Wool said the board supports the current presence of police officers at each of the six district schools, he said there must be a balance in the end.
“We want our kids to go to school and feel like they’re in school, not in prison, but we also want them to feel safe,” he said. “I can think of a number of scenarios that would change the school experience that would make them safer but would make school a very different place.”
He called on parents to be vigilant, citing Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s message to New York residents that if you see something suspicious, say something — in this case to a school principal.
“The best way to stop the Newtown tragedy is not to let that individual show up at the door,” said Wool. “There were many people in that community I believe that understood that that young man was troubled and nobody picked up the phone. Each one of you, right now, has that same responsibility.”
In calling the gunmen who have carried out recent mass shootings “very deliberative and very smart,” Wool said he could not elaborate on every security detail under consideration. But he said security cameras throughout the district were just upgraded and said the board completed a review of its school safety plans in November.
“We always get better at what we do because there’s nothing more important than the safety of your children,” he said. “We take that seriously. You are in a very lucky place. This is a community that has been prepared, will remain prepared and we are going to continue to work as hard as we can, quite frankly, to make it safe, but to not let this kind of fear murder childhood. Kids still have to feel comfortable.”