Comments Before the Board of Education, April 8, 2019
Response: Total Silence from the Board of Education and Dr. Thomas Hagerman
If you prefer to watch the video which includes additional information, please visit https://vimeopro.com/scarsdaleschoolstv/boe-2018-2019 and click on public comment at 1:00:53.
I haven’t spoken before this group for some time as our organization has very little faith that our comments are taken seriously, in part because a Board member told us that a comment by one parent does not show sufficient parental interest for serious Board attention. I’ve got a copy of that email chain if you’d like to refresh your memory. I did watch, though, several recent Board meetings so that I could remain informed.
There is widespread frustration with the District’s delayed communication to Middle School Parents, more than an hour after the lock down began. By that time, we all knew that a lock down was in place but everything else was rumor. Parents on-site were told it was a likely malfunction no less than 30 minutes before the rest of us. Why? Send an initial communication so that parents are hearing directly from the school. Next time there’s a lock down, and it will happen, send an immediate notification to parents and send out additional information frequently. We can’t receive too many calls in this situation. Please think long and hard before confiscating cell phones from our children. Parents will be calling and texting their children and may or may not remember that cell phones are confiscated, heightening fears. By the way, according to first-hand accounts from middle school students, teachers and students had no idea what was going on. Shouldn’t there be a mechanism to inform teachers so that they can inform their students and calm justifiable fears? We have heard second-hand that a student reported to their parents she had seen a man with a gun in the hallway. We now know that was the police but teachers and students had no idea that the police were even in the building. Communication… When Mr. Morin asked at the last security update how many actual lock downs had occurred in the past year, our District security chief stated “zero.” Perhaps he, and everyone else at this table, forgot that we had a recent bomb threat at Quaker Ridge. Not ONE person at this table cared to mention the inaccuracy or correct the record, apparently preferring to let this incident be swept under the rug. If you ignore it, that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
I understand that our teachers and administrators have received some training on the proper procedure to follow in the event of various emergencies. Sometimes, though, the teacher is out of the classroom. Even in the elementary schools, students, usually in pairs, are often sent to drop something at the office or run another simple errand. What does that third grader, who is walking with a friend to drop something off at the office, do if a lock down is initiated? Do they go back to their classroom? Continue to the office? Go into the nearest classroom which may already be closed and locked? None of my three children have received any such instruction. Has this Board asked any of these questions of the District? Some of the middle school teachers barricaded their doors, others didn’t. Some confiscated cell phones, others didn’t. The administration’s explanation for that, as reported by the Inquirer, is that every incident is different. We agree, however… Classroom 101 (I forgot we still haven’t numbered our classrooms 1-2 years later) classroom 101 should have the same policy as classroom 102 and so on. To blame inconsistent behavior on each incident being unique is a non-sequitur. This was one incident at the middle school and there was ostensibly one policy. It just wasn’t followed because our administration has inadequately trained our teachers or failed to address a foreseeable situation. Altaris has provided policy recommendations to the administration. Either Altaris failed to foresee that middle schoolers would have cell phones, failed to tell the District administration what to do with cell phones or door barricades or the administration failed to properly communicate that to our staff. Logic dictates that one of the three must be correct. Our teachers should be commended and we are all thankful for their actions under very trying circumstances.
After the Quaker Ridge bomb threat, this community was told that the police were, quoting Dr. Hagerman’s email, “called within a few minutes.” A few minutes of what? The lock down began no later than 10:15 am. The police received their first call at 10:29 am, a period of 14 minutes. These are facts. Perhaps Dr. Hagerman equates 14 with a few but I don’t know anyone else who would agree. There was a delay, plain and simple. We hope that our administration is able to learn from their mistakes. So much for hope. Last week at the middle school lockdown, as reported by the Scarsdale Inquirer, it took 12 minutes between the time that the lock down was initiated and notification of the police. Let’s be clear, this is a delay. Shooting incidents at schools are usually over in less than ten minutes, often due to the quick response of law enforcement. Our police department is hampered by the District’s incorrect policy, inadequate training and/or careless implementation.
It’s time for this Board to do something more than accept District requests and approve District policies. What if it was your daughter who walked out of the fitness room, where the lock down announcement could not be heard, right into an active shooter situation? What if it was your son who became overheated and weak because the District hasn’t been able to figure out how to stage water bottles in the classrooms? What if it was your child who didn’t answer your call because you had no idea that their cell phone had been confiscated and you then feared the worst? I have news for you. It is your children, and my children and your neighbor’s children. I’m not sure whether our District Administrators have children in our District so I can’t properly address that to you. Be independent, as you are supposed to be. Take your own action to protect our children. The Board simply must require the District administration to take advantage of free, professional resources in our community.
What this group fails to grasp is that the parents in this community do not care about teacher training, AP vs AT classes, lunch details or frankly anything else if they are concerned about the safety of their kids. Make no mistake, they are very worried.