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Pols, Residents Sound Off on Security After Newtown

Parents ask for more security at Syosset BOE meeting, while board and pols focus on root of the problem.

With last week's tragic elementary school shooting in Connecticut still fresh in everyone's minds, Syosset residents and lawmakers are brainstorming updates on school security.

National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre called for an immediate installation of armed officers in schools Friday, saying, "I call on Congress today to act immediately, to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every school — and to do it now, to make sure that blanket of safety is in place when our children return to school in January."

Nassau County politicians on both sides of the aisle are agreeing that the problem stems from lack of common sense gun laws and an abundance of loopholes.

Rep. Steve Israel, D-Huntington, described LaPierre's statements as “tragically out of touch."

"We do not need an arms race in our schools," Israel said. "We need common-sense initiatives like limits on high-capacity assault magazines and closing the gun show loophole. It's time for common ground, not more guns on school playgrounds.”

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In Syosset, Monday night's Board of Education meeting focused greatly on remembrance of those who died and prevention of a repeat incident.

The meeting began with a poignant moment of silence in which the entire audience stood with heads bowed as a bell chimed 26 times in honor of each Newtown victim. Board President Michael Cohen read a poem about the shooting and singers from Syosset High School sang a solemn tune in memory of the lives lost. Watch the video here.

Turning to current security measures within the district, parents and board members asked that a closer look and possible revision be undertaken of Syosset's security policies.

"I believe that we cannot sit back and wait while innocent children and teachers are sitting ducks in our district," said Robert Gershon, saying that while the district's new policy of requiring identification to enter the school is good, the district should take security a step further.

"We need to seriously consider hiring professional security guards to watch over and protect our little ones and our educators."

"I was also hoping now…that you would consider what to do about the junior lot where the kids go by the woods," said Jenna Richner, referring to the parking lot near Stillwell Woods across from Syosset High School. "There's some shenanigans during the day and i think we should have people [patrolling] that area."

While open to ideas for security, Superintendent Carole Hankin recounted information she received from meetings on the subject about how to realistically keep children safe while maintaining a sense of normalcy.

"These maniacs, and excuse me but that's the only term, they're going to shoot the guard," she said, apologizing for the frankness of her statement. "I'll put in a million guards…but I still cant tell any parent, any teacher, any psychologist…that they're safe because as long as, excuse me, there are guns like that out there…as long as there are people out there that need help and aren't getting it," safety would always be a concern.

"If anyone is upset in here, trust me, I'm probably the most upset in the room, and I only say that because these 7,000 kids are mine…"

On the floor of the Nassau County Legislature this week Jacobs criticized Nassau County's proposed 2013 budget for slashing mental health program funding by nearly 50 percent from 2012 levels.

"We, unfortunately, do not have powers to enforce stricter gun laws on the county level, but we certainly have the power to provide mental health programs in the county and, thereby, serve as a model for the state and federal governments," Jacobs said.

"It is ludicrous," Nassau PBA President James Carver said of putting armed guards in schools. "Kids -- especially grammar school kids -- shouldn't have to walk into a school with police set up there [with] the fear that there's something bound to happen. The bottom line here is that the guns are getting into the hands of the people that they shouldn't be getting into."

"To me, there's no legitimate purpose to have these semi-automatic rifles. ... We have to take a seriously look in this country about gun control. ... Enough of the talk, it's time for action."

Joe Dowd and Matthew Hogan contributed to this report.

Rob December 22, 2012 at 02:00 PM
Say what you want but this is going to happen again no matter what gun laws we pass. Putting and armed guard in the school is a good idea. I agree it wouldnt be a good idea to have a guy there armed to the hilt with exposed weapons but a plain closed guy with a concealed weapon dressed in a suit would not alarm the kids. Yes a nut with an automatic weapon would have the advantage but the armed person in the school would be the best defense against him. I cant imagine a safer way to do it
Christopher DiFilippo December 22, 2012 at 06:17 PM
Safety and Protection in the Schools and for our children, teachers, staff, parents and all others is paramount. That is why I requested at the last School Board meeting to not only get a copy of the Syosset School Safety plan but also encouraged other trustees to take a more active role. We are a community that needs to get input from all of us on how best to get thru this terrorist attack on children and we should also more vigilant in our travels. We need to welcome recommendations from our local emergency services like the Police and Fire Department, and Nassau County Emergency.
rena damon December 23, 2012 at 12:46 AM
There's no "easy" answer or solution....it can only help us to be better/more prepared.

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