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Riverhead school board discusses new security programs

11/13/2016 9:00 AM |

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Citing increased national concern about school safety, the Riverhead School District has revamped its security program by hiring consultants from Covert Investigations.

The new team started in August under the guidance of founder Don Flynn and has already begun implementing new practices and training staff, Mr. Flynn said during a presentation at Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting.

“We’ve been looking to go to the next level a little bit,” Superintendent Nancy Carney said. “Nothing is more important than the safety of our students and making sure we’re on the cutting edge of providing the district, our students and our staff an environment where they have the security and sense that we’re doing everything possible to be sure … we’re on top of things in regards to students and staff safety.”

Joined by Rich Andersen, the head guard in the district’s schools, Mr. Flynn outlined the new practices.

Security staff received training in CPR, “Stop the Bleed” and use of automated external defibrillators in a workshop held during Tuesday’s superintendent’s conference day.

“Stop the Bleed,” a program created by the Department of Homeland Security, teaches bystanders how to correctly respond to wounds involving significant blood loss.

Other plans include holding 12 drills throughout the year, including four lockdown drills. All lockdown drills will be announced, but Mr. Flynn said he plans on having many of the other drills be unannounced.

He also outlined plans to work closely with the Riverhead and Southampton police departments. This includes installing new video surveillance systems with links directly to the police departments.

Mr. Flynn and Mr. Andersen are both retired New York City police officers. Mr. Flynn founded Covert Investigations in 2003 to bolster safety in K-12 schools and BOCES programs.

Ms. Carney said the school board approved spending $75,000 for a one year contract with Covert Investigations, which included hiring Mr. Andersen as a full-time onsite security director.

He said he focuses on hiring past police and military members. This prompted school board members Amelia Lantz and Laurie Downs to ask if he planned to train the district’s current staff or replace them. Mr. Flynn replied that he’s already begun training the staff.

Community members also voiced concerns about security measures not addressed in the presentation.

Josh Berezny, a 2008 Riverhead High School graduate, said he was pleased with the plan but felt it was only “halfway” complete. The missing aspect, he said, was arming trained staff with guns. He mentioned the small-gang problem and growing heroin issue, which he felt would promote violence within schools.

He expressed worries that if someone opens fire at the school it would be too late by the time police arrived, and said only an armed person inside the school could stop a gunman.

“I don’t see why, if police walk the streets with guns, they can’t walk the halls with them,” Mr. Berezny said.

Board members Ann Cotten-DeGrasse and Laurie Downs immediately said they didn’t want guns in the schools, fearing their presence would instead promote more violence. Board president Susan Koukounas said Mr. Berezny’s concerns would be discussed with Mr. Flynn and his security staff.

Aquebogue resident Yolanda Thompson praised the security at the front doors of the high school but was concerned that students weren’t being supervised during recess and while traveling from the schools to portable buildings.

She was also concerned about monitoring what students bring into the school and suggested that metal detectors be installed.

“I think our schools are very safe,” Ms. Carney said, adding that the best security is the staff and students. “We are constantly figuring out how to keep our kids safe and do things better. We feel we’ve been very proactive and we don’t want our schools to be prisons. At this point, we don’t see the need for metal detectors.”

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Photo: Don Flynn, accompanied by Richard Andersen, speaking at Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting. (Credit: Nicole Smith)

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