The head of security patrols the halls at Center Moriches High...

The head of security patrols the halls at Center Moriches High School on Jan.18, 2013. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

How do Long Island schools handle their security? 

It varies.

Some schools, such as Uniondale High School, have metal detectors. Others have armed security. In February, the Smithtown school system announced plans to hire armed guards to be stationed outside its schools, joining Montauk, Tuckahoe and West Babylon, which use armed security. Districts such as Connetquot, Massapequa, Hauppauge and Miller Place have either hired or explored hiring armed security. Most schools have only a single entryway.

School security is a subject that may be on people's minds this week. On Monday, a Lindenhurst middle school student, age 12, attacked another student, 13, with a knife, leaving him in critical condition, although he was improving Tuesday, police said. Also Monday, the Uniondale School District said a Hempstead teen, 17, evaded the school's screening and smuggled a box-cutter into the high school underneath a laptop in her backpack. She used it to slash two other students, ages 17 and 18, police said.

Here are answers to some questions on the state of school security. 

What role do police departments play?

Police do security assessments of schools and patrol school grounds as needed.

Last year, the commissioners of Long Island’s county police departments said their officers wouldn’t, as Nassau’s Patrick Ryder put it, “sit outside and wait,” as Uvalde police did for more than an hour last May while a gunman killed 21 people and wounded more than a dozen others at a Texas elementary school.

The commissioners say the police departments coordinate with the school districts and typically can access surveillance video feeds from inside school buildings.

What steps must a school district undertake to change security procedure, such as adding armed guards, metal detectors or more intensive searches?

Under the state education commissioner’s regulations, each district must write up a security plan incorporating elements such as “security devices or procedures” and “the use of school safety or security officers and/or school resource officers.” Then, districts must make the document public, accept public comments for at least 30 days and hold a public hearing before approving the plan.

The law requires this to be done annually, and the plans must be submitted to the local police force and state police.

How common is violence in Long Island schools?

In the 2018-19 school year, in 649 public schools on Long Island with 433,823 students, there were 37 incidents of assault serious enough to put the victim at risk of death, according to the state Education Department’s School Safety and Educational Climate incidents database. That's the most recent pre-pandemic year in which students were not doing remote-learning.

There were 268 incidents of weapon possession. (The data isn’t broken down by weapon type but can include firearms, as well as BB guns or paintball guns; switchblades or utility knives, sling shots or any “deadly or potentially dangerous object.”)

Only 3% of schools — 20 total— had at least one serious assault, 1% had more than one, and 0.4% had at least three: Roosevelt’s Washington Rose Elementary School had seven; Hempstead’s Alverta B. Gray Schultz Middle School had six; and Patchogue-Medford’s Saxton Middle School had three.

Has there ever been an active shooter incident in Long Island schools?

Detective Lt. Richard Lebrun, a spokesman for the Nassau County Police Department, said, “There has never been an active shooter situation in any schools in Nassau County.” There hasn’t been a similar incident in Suffolk in recent memory, according to that county’s police press office.

In 1983, however, a fired teacher’s aide dressed in combat boots and fatigues stormed into a Brentwood middle school, shot a ninth-grader and the principal, held 18 students hostage and then shot himself in the head.

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