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Amityville schools form a security department of 20 officers

Amityville Memorial High School.

Amityville Memorial High School. Credit: Alexi Knock

The Amityville School District has formed a school security department that will consist of about 20 officers by the start of school on Tuesday, school officials said Thursday.

Superintendent Mary Kelly said that the move was not prompted by any specific incident at the district's five schools but by a desire to promote safety by establishing stronger relationships among the district's 3,090 students, school officials and members of the communities the district serves.

"They have the training to respond to a crisis but also to prevent a crisis from happening," Kelly said. "The research is clear that the best way to promote a safe environment is through relationships people develop with students and other people in the community and schools."

The officers, who will be off-duty or retired law enforcement officers from a variety of agencies including the NYPD, will not enforce discipline themselves but will report incidents to administrators. Chosen from a pool of about 100 applicants, they will not be armed and will wear polo shirts identifying them as members of the security department.

"We want for the security to be not seen as something adversarial, but just something that becomes part of the community," said Sydney Freifelder, the district's interim assistant superintendent for finance and operations. "The student population and staff know that these are the go-to people if you have an issue."

Kelly and Freifelder said that similar departments were in place or have been contemplated at a number of other districts across Long Island, including Massapequa, Connetquot and Brentwood. Many were established after shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999 and Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut in 2012.

Gang activity in the communities Amityville schools serve sometimes turns violent and has infringed on schools before, as in the case of what prosecutors called a gang shooting last February in the Amityville High School parking lot. Nobody was injured in an incident prosecutors later said stemmed from a feud over drug turf and social media insults. None of those involved were students.

"We are mindful of the presence of gang activity in our community, and we are paying attention to it to ensure it doesn't have an impact on our schools," Kelly said.

Kelly and Freifelder declined to provide salary ranges for the officers or estimate the cost of the department, but said they expected it to be less than the $500,000 allotted in previous years for a security firm that provided guards at school entrances.

Robert Claps, president of the Amityville Teacher's Association, said that teachers were "thrilled the board and central administration have taken measures to protect students . . . Now we'll have trained professionals walking around."

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