N.Y school officials discuss security strategies at 2013 School Safety Forum

Operating with the theme “Transforming Our Schools: Violence Prevention and Crisis Planning,” the 2013 School Safety Forum took place last week in Melville, N.Y and featured a five-person panel that included Dr. Thomas Rogers, district superintendent and CEO, Nassau BOCES Board of Education; Dr. Alan Groveman, superintendent of Connetquot Central School District; Donald R. Flynn, NYPD (Retired) and principal of Covert Investigations & Security, Inc.; David Antar, president of A+ Technology & Security Solutions, Inc.; and, Michael Balboni, a former New York state senator who serves as president and managing director of RedLand Strategies, Inc.

Balboni delivered the keynote address at the forum, which was moderated by Mike Richez of A+ Technology & Security Solutions, Inc. Attendees included leaders in education, law enforcement, private security and technology and local government.

Balboni, in his keynote address, noted that it was the tragedy at Columbine in 1999 that started the dialogue on school violence, and that the age of the victims at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown was the most shocking aspect of that tragedy. He went on to stress that security is an everyday job and that the best strategies are scalable, flexible, sustainable and cost efficient while making the best use of available resources. He stated that he was not in favor of armed guards in schools, but in general, the best approach involved a daily analysis in each school as to what works and how can security be enhanced.

Highlights of the panel discussion included Rogers’ announcement of a new, centralized district video monitoring system to be implemented within his jurisdiction. He also pointed out the need for vastly expanded mental health services, noting that the waiting list for these services is three times longer than the number of people the system can currently handle. He also mentioned that the installation and operation of many technology-based security systems is hampered by the architecture and infrastructure of school buildings that were built anywhere from the 1920s through the 1960s.

Antar’s comments focused on equipment and technology such as thermal imaging sensors, license plate detection, visitor management systems and electronic door access that is part of a quick lockdown system, and on communications systems that provide fast connectivity to law enforcement. He noted that the price of some of the technology is rapidly coming down, making it more affordable to financially stressed school systems.

Groveman stressed that the most important preventive methods are diligence, training and experience at the school level. He stated that school administrators, leaders and teachers are in the people business – and that people are the threat.

“Don’t be paranoid – be prepared,” Flynn declared in stating his belief that everybody in the system, top to bottom, is part of the plan. He noted that security is an everyday process, and that the best plans combine technology with highly trained personnel. He also observed that over the past few years, school security events involving domestic issues have been on the increase.

Balboni encouraged schools to seek doable, reasonable goals combined with persistence and consistency in planning and training for security issues. Click here to read an in-depth Q&A interview with Balboni from the forum.