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West Babylon board approves armed security personnel in schools

Eight of nine board members approved a plan allowing the superintendent to hire security for the district of 3,800-plus students starting in the fall.

West Babylon schools Superintendent Yiendhy Farrelly is seen

West Babylon schools Superintendent Yiendhy Farrelly is seen on Dec. 16, 2015. Photo Credit: James Carbone

Armed security guards will be deployed in West Babylon schools starting in the fall under a resolution approved Tuesday night by the school board, district officials said. 

Eight trustees on the nine-member board voted in favor of a resolution allowing the superintendent to authorize security personnel to carry a firearm while on duty in the 3,800-plus student district starting with the 2019-20 school year, according to minutes of the regular meeting provided by the district. Trustee John Evola abstained.

The decision came after “months of thoughtful conversations, research, meetings with administration, conversations with our attorney, law enforcement representatives, our insurance company and other related personnel,” Superintendent Yiendhy Farrelly said in a letter to staff, parents and guardians posted on the district’s website. “Please know that despite the fact that extensive research was done, this was not an easy decision for our Board.”

Farrelly declined a request for comment Wednesday.

The resolution was approved two days before the anniversary of the Feb. 14, 2018, mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 students and staff members were killed and 17 others injured. That was followed by a shooting May 18 at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, that left 10 people dead and 13 injured.

The massacres galvanized discussions of school safety nationwide. Throughout New York State, school districts have ramped up security, investing in more secure infrastructure, hardening entryways and installing cameras, strengthening partnerships with law enforcement and holding active-shooter trainings for teachers and staff.

The decision to arm school security guards has been controversial, with some school boards and communities on Long Island endorsing it wholeheartedly and others vehemently opposing it. Last year, some districts, including Massapequa, Hauppauge and Miller Place, approved plans to add armed security guards to their campuses. 

Only designated security personnel, whose names will be made known to the board in executive session, will be authorized to carry a firearm in the West Babylon district, according to the resolution.

Arming security staff is just one of a number of security enhancements the district has put in place in the last few years, Farrelly wrote in the letter.

The district has five elementary schools, a junior high school and a high school. In recent years, it has increased the presence of security personnel, each of whom has a law enforcement background; established a districtwide visitor management system; increased the number of interior and exterior cameras; established a district command center; and conducted emergency response drills with its school resource officers and director of security, the superintendent wrote.

The system also has authorized Suffolk County police to conduct building risk assessments and active-shooter trainings, and the district is in the process of replacing doors and hardware in all buildings, Farrelly's letter said. This summer, double-door vestibules will be installed at each school entrance in all buildings.

In addition, the district has increased the number of mental health professionals it employs, enhanced social-emotional learning programs, and increased individual and group counseling sessions, according to the letter. The district is working to strengthen its K-12 health curriculum.

“As you know, safety and security are of utmost importance to our Board, administration team, staff, faculty and community,” Farrelly wrote.

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