Rhodes Academy in Hempstead

Rhodes Academy in Hempstead Credit: Google

Hempstead school officials have requested additional patrols from Nassau County and state police after a bullet was found inside an elementary school classroom Tuesday.

A staff member at the Rhodes Academy found a bullet and shell casing next to a shattered window, fired early Tuesday morning at the school on Washington Avenue, officials said.

The school was not targeted, Hempstead Village Police Chief Paul Johnson said. Police received a ShotSpotter notification at 1 a.m. Tuesday and officers on patrol nearby responded to the school after hearing the gunfire, Johnson said.

Hempstead school board members, representatives from the local NAACP and Superintendent Regina Armstrong gathered at the district office Wednesday to denounce the gunfire and call for additional police near schools.

It is the second time police have responded to a report of shots fired near the school, Hempstead school board President Randy Stith said. He called on Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman and Gov. Kathy Hochul to assign more police to the village.

“We don't want to wait until something happens a third time if one of our students or staff members are injured,” Stith said. “Hempstead police does a great job, but we know we have a lot of calls in the village. Parents and staff need to know it’s safe to come to school and work.”

Hempstead Village Mayor Waylyn Hobbs Jr. said police had already increased patrols before the shooting, so there is no need for additional law enforcement from Nassau County or the state.

Hobbs said the village has added about 25 officers, increasing ranks from about 113 to 128. He noted that shootings and injuries were down by 40%. He said village police have been meeting with school security, including at charter schools.

“We always make sure the students are safe to go to school,” Hobbs said. "I disagree there is a need to bring in the county, or sheriff or state level. We have more than enough men and women of the police department to address the safety of the entire village, including the school district.”

Hobbs said he has worked previously with the superintendent, but has not yet met with Stith since he assumed the role of board president last month.

Hobbs said the school district did not request any additional patrols from the village or outside agencies.

“If It was necessary to bring in the county for assistance or the state, I as mayor would make that call,” Hobbs said. “Our new president of the school board being a police officer, for whatever little length of time he was, should understand how chain of command operates.”

Wednesday night, Nassau spokesman Chris Boyle said in an email: “The county stands ready to provide any resources Mayor Hobbs may need to provide additional public safety in the Village of Hempstead.”

Parents and teacher organizations agreed with the call for adding police after being rattled by the stray gunfire.

Hempstead PTA president U. Lucky Irowa said Tuesday’s shooting did not target students, but said schools need more police patrols.

“With what is happening in the country, you can never have enough police anywhere and around children,” he said. “It’s not only in Hempstead, it’s every school in the country.”

Nicole Brown, an elementary school teacher at Rhodes Academy, agreed that more police were needed. She also serves as union president of the Hempstead Classroom Teachers Association.

“It was very shocking and disturbing to hear about the bullet that hit the window. We need law enforcement to pick it up,” she said. “I think our district needs to beef up security patrols, but we also need the support of Nassau County police to crack down to make sure no one is injured or killed."

With Michael O'Keeffe

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