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SCSS Update on the Events at Quaker Ridge School

This afternoon the community received Dr. Hagerman’s update on the events surrounding last week’s events at Quaker Ridge School. We appreciated this note as it included additional information, and clarifications of certain aspects of the events to which the community was not initially (appropriately so) privy to. We join the broader community in applauding the efforts of all QRS staff and the dedicated, caring support offered to our children in a time of crisis. It was remarkable how well adjusted and largely unfazed the kids seemed to be on the day of the event, as well as throughout the week. This is a testament to the school’s administration, teachers, and everyone else that was around that kept them calmer than their parents. We further applaud the cooperative work of the District and the Police Department in identifying the individual responsible for the threat so 1) parents can feel comfortable that the school has returned to its status from before the threat, and 2) that the individual responsible can receive whatever help and support he/she may require.

We appreciate this supplemental information. Additionally, we completely understand the need to redact certain elements of the situation and investigation. Much of what happened is not for public consumption, and we get that.

All of this said, it is our responsibility to continue to put a critical lens on the events, and we take issue in particular with the glossing over of the time delay between lockdown and arrival of the police. More specifically, Dr. Hagerman wrote, “there is some speculation that the police response [was] delayed, we want to be clear that this not accurate [sic].” However, a review of the actual event facts reveals the following timeline: 1) the lock down at Quaker Ridge began no later than 10:15am, as reported by numerous parents who were at the school for a book fair, 2) the police dispatcher received the first call about the bomb threat at 10:29am. The first police officer arrived on-scene at 10:37am. These are indisputable facts according to the Scarsdale Police. Perhaps, in Dr. Hagerman’s opinion, 14+ minutes qualifies as “a few” and is representative as no delay. We disagree.

A fifteen-minute delay in notifying law enforcement of a lethal threat against a specific school is a problem. The circumstances need to be examined, scrutinized, and adjusted so this never happens again. Our school doesn’t typically have these events, and we can all learn from them. But as unfortunate as this delay was, the school administration’s not acknowledging this type of delay as unacceptable is a much bigger issue.

The school was locked down, and 22 minutes later the police arrived. I cannot imagine any parent interpreting that as an acceptable overall response. It is unclear why it took 14 minutes to call the police. The school is an antiquated facility, does not have enough security personnel, and has insufficient technology to assist in circumstances like this. Any or all of these deficiencies could have contributed to this delay.

The delay also seems indicative of incomplete protocol, protocol not followed or some other human error. This should be reviewed in depth, by an independent party, with areas of deficiency identified and corrections immediately implemented. This all happened under the auspices of our district security provider, Altaris, well after their recommendations for security protocols were received and apparently many implemented. As such it is not appropriate for Altaris (alone) to define the entire after-action review.

In a follow-up note from Dr. Hagerman to this organization, he wrote, “In terms calls to the police [sic], our protocol was accurately implemented, attending to students first by evacuating students in the affected wing and making sure all students were safe. Moreover, District administration actually receives texts and phone calls when 9-1-1 calls are made anywhere within the District. It usually happens a minute or two after the actual call is placed. I keep all such notices on my phone, and I received mine at 10:26, so the 9-1-1 call occurred before this. I don't know who you spoke with at the police department, but the information you were provided was not correct.”

While we understand that Dr. Hagerman does not agree that a delay occurred, we must rely on the official account of the times associated with the event as logged by the Scarsdale Police Department’s computer-aided dispatch system, subsequently provided to two different members of our organizing committee by two different members of the Scarsdale Police Department, and as released by the Scarsdale Police Department to the press. By the way, this is representative of the problems that we organized to address. The Superintendent of the schools is now on the record saying the police timeline account is 4-5 minutes off from what dispatch computers recorded.

Even if Dr. Hagerman’s personal timeline proves to be more accurate than the police, we are unaware of a reason that not one employee in the building would be available to place a 911 call for 10-15 minutes. This also hits at one of the key discussion points of our organization - that our schools are understaffed for events like these.

One other point on the district update note - the note made a threat against the school and not a particular wing yet just one wing was immediately evacuated. The assumption that the risk was tied to a particular location within the school (presumably because that’s where the note was found?) could have had serious consequences. We admittedly don’t have a full lens into these facts, but we found that component of the note unsettling, at least with our level of facts and information.

We do not expect perfection on the part of our teachers and administrators, but we do expect them to take this opportunity to be self-critical, evaluatory, and challenge themselves to be better. Dr. Hagerman’s note while informative, comforting and somewhat clarifying, continues to suggest that the administration has it all figured out, and it’s not for us nor anyone else to question why 14 minutes elapsed between lockdown and police notification, and 22 minutes elapsed from lockdown to police arrival.

We will continue to ask probing questions as appropriate given the broader lack of commitment to top tier school security that has been on exhibit for far too long. Again, we don’t even have cameras, and no one seems to think that’s essential enough to have remedied thus far. How could we expect to be perfect at lockdowns and evacuations? We will continue to press forward and drive towards better solutions for our children and our community.

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