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Sayville school custodian faces firing over gun remark, superintendent says

Sayville school officials are moving to end the employment of a custodian accused of making a remark about bringing a gun to school that some interpreted as a threat, according to Superintendent John E. Stimmel.

Stimmel, in an interview, said two custodians were “joking back-and-forth” and “bantering” at Cherry Avenue Elementary School on Feb. 16, two days after the shooting at a Florida high school that left 17 people dead. After one teased the other about having to complete paperwork, the second custodian replied “in very poor taste that he was going to go home and get his gun and bring it back to school,” Stimmel recounted.

Stimmel said the remark was about a gun, though some people heard AR-15, the weapon used in the Florida school shooting. The superintendent, who said a police investigation determined the employee did not own any guns, would not identify the employee to Newsday. But he confirmed that he had recommended his termination to the board of education — an action that is likely to take place at the panel’s Thursday night meeting. “We will be meeting with the school board to discuss the future of his employment,” he said. “I trust that the board will make the right decision.”

“Whether it was a joke or not, we take any comment like that very seriously,” Stimmel said. “Given the timing of everything, it’s such a sensitive issue that it just makes it all the worse.”

Long Island school systems have responded swiftly since the Florida shooting to assure communities that proper security procedures are in place or are being enhanced. On Monday, the Miller Place school district added four armed security guards, all retired NYPD officers, one for each of the district’s four campuses. The Center Moriches school district in January announced plans to hire two armed law enforcement officers to patrol the district’s two campuses, and bids are due March 14. Mount Sinai Superintendent Gordon Brosdal said Tuesday his community was “clamoring” for the proposal and that the district was “entertaining” it.

The Port Jefferson school district held a community meeting Monday night that was focused on security, where Superintendent Paul Casciano discussed a “potential threat” of violence on campus made by a student on social media. Casciano said police determined there was “no credible threat of violence to our school” and that the student would no longer attend district schools.

Stimmel posted a statement on the school’s website Thursday that acknowledged the controversy. “In light of what has happened in our country during the past few weeks, it is only natural that our community is experiencing a heightened level of concern regarding school safety,” Stimmel wrote. He added that the district is “conducting a thorough review of our school safety plans for the entire district.”

The statement said that “while it has been determined that there was no imminent threat to students or staff, the district, as noted, immediately relieved the individual of his duties.”

The statement said that the comments were referred to the Suffolk County Police Department, whose officers told the district no criminal activity had occurred.

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