BY JON CRONIN
In the aftermath of recent school shootings across the nation and a man’s gaining access to a Whitestone elementary school, elected officials are asking the city’s Department of Education (DOE) to allow principals to lock the doors while school is in session.
Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) and Assemblyman Edward Braunstein (D-Bayside) are asking for the DOE’s policy to be changed, so that doors can be locked while students are in class.
According to police at a recent Community Education Council 25 meeting, a 27-year-old man gained access to PS 184 once during the week, at which time he went to the principal’s office and asked to visit his old teachers. He was denied the request, began to act strangely and was asked to leave. He next entered the school on the weekend during a volleyball game and was asked to leave, police said. He then went to the school’s auditorium, where he played the piano.
Braunstein noted that the DOE’s policy “deviates from the practice at many private schools, where visitors must ring a bell and announce themselves before being permitted entry.”
“Granting public-school principals this same authority to confirm whether an individual represents a threat before allowing them into a school could prevent dangerous incidents from taking place,” he said.
Vallone believes that such an incident requires the community “to be proactive, not reactive.”
“Incidents like the one at PS 184 clearly show that our students are not as safe as we think and changes need to be made to make sure that they can learn and grow in the safest environment possible,” Vallone said.
Joseph Di Benedetto, chairman of CEC 25, said that the council is also preparing a resolution that will be sent to the chancellor and mayor to allow school doors to be locked. The DOE told Di Benedetto that the doors could not be locked because in the event of an emergency, EMS may not be able to gain entry in time and that those delayed minutes could cost lives.