Written by Christy Hinko Friday, 21 December 2012 00:00
News of the elementary school massacre in Newtown, CT, struck fear in parents around the world. Although 90 miles away from the tragedy, local schools, including those in the Farmingdale School District, checked and rechecked their safety procedures and policies.
Superintendent of Farmingdale Schools, John Lorentz said, “In the wake of this heartbreaking event, district administrators and staff have reviewed all safety and security measures to assure the community that our students and staff are safe in our schools.”
Lorentz assured that students’ safety is always top priority within the school district. “Through extensive training and a series of drills, which include fire drills, secure perimeter drills, shelter drills and lock-down drills, our staff is prepared to protect our students and assist them to safety in the event of an emergency.”
Jackie Costello, whose daughters attend Northside Elementary and Howitt Middle School, is now trying to respond best to their questions and concerns. “I had no idea what to say [at first] and they didn’t ask; I am going to have to talk to them.” She said other parents and neighbors were trying to keep it very simple, not saying too much to their own children. “They are all going to come home and ask questions today; they are going to want to know if they are safe,” Costello continued. She expects that someone will be talking about it at school in the days following. “It’s senseless for them to not feel safe, but how much should I say?” Naturally, she said it was much easier to have already discussed it with her son, who is 18 and attends Oneonta State College.
Assemblyman Joseph Saladino told Farmingdale Observer, “From this tragedy, I hope that my colleagues and I will bring the appropriate changes to state government to better protect our children and the public at large. Among other issues, New York needs to do a better job providing mental health care and seeing to it that insurance more fully covers all treatments for behavioral health. This a time when we need to count our blessings for the health and safety of our children.”
Superintendent Lorentz also confirmed that the Farmingdale School District holds regular safety committee meetings, which include representatives from Nassau County police and Farmingdale fire departments. In addition, he said, “Our school psychologists, counselors and social workers are available to speak with our students to offer support during this emotional time.
In addition to parents looking for reassurance from their own school district, they also look toward local officials for proactive measures and policies. Senator Kemp Hannon voiced his commitment to “taking whatever steps are necessary to ensure the protection of our school children, and all school faculty, staff and employees, and to curtail gun violence.”
Mental illness is another area of focus, said Hannon. “I stand with my colleagues in the Legislature and the Governor to seek answers and remedies so that a tragedy like Newtown, CT, is never repeated.”
Assemblyman David McDonough told Farmingdale Observer, “While New York State has some strong gun laws, we call upon the federal government to react to this by passing legislation to make it much more difficult for people to obtain assault weapons that have been used in these incidents we have seen too much of in the recent past.”
By the end of the school day on Monday, Dec. 17 the Farmingdale School District had aggressively reached out to the parents with safety and procedural information, both sent home with the students and posted on the district’s website. The letter to parents and residents can be found at http://farmingdaleschools.org/.