Outside the steps of the Mineola Middle School, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, Nassau County Police Department (NCPD) Commissioner Patrick Ryder, Superintendent of the Mineola School District Dr. Michael Nagler, as well as various members of the NCPD, recently discussed the importance of school safety ahead of this school year.
“Nobody in my house is excited about back to school, but we in Nassau County are ready,” said Curran. “We’re ready to open schools, working very closely with our superintendents and principals and with our private school community as well. Our shared goal is to make sure that this school year is as safe as it can possibly be. This isn’t something that we just start thinking about in August. It’s something that we focus on 12 months of the year.”
All of the county’s school buildings have been assessed for security while personnel in each building have been trained by the NCPD in the chance there is an active shooter situation or other emergency. A valuable tool that all 56 school districts, along with private schools, have at their disposal is the RAVE app, which helps to reduce response time in an active shooter situation.
“Since 2000, 75 percent of school shootings have happened within a period of five minutes or less,” explained Curran. “The more you can reduce response time, the more lives you save. It’s an incredibly wonderful tool and we’re blessed to have it. Another initiative that we’ve had is that we make sure that the police officers visit school buildings regularly so they know what the layout of the building is. There’s this familiarity of the schools, so they’re not walking in blind during an emergency. We have a wonderful police department that works incredibly hard.”
Another tactic that the NCPD does is monitor social media for any possible red flags or for any possible issues regarding overall safety. The county is in constant contact with school superintendents, as well as many private, Catholic and Jewish schools.
“A couple of other issues I want to touch on,” said Curran. “We encourage all families to vaccinate their children. It keeps your kids safe, it’s proven safe and it keeps our communities safe. I know it’s a little controversial, but I think it’s incredibly important to vaccinate. The second issue is that we’ve had a very aggressive recruitment strategy that is successful in recruiting new school crossing guards. At my direction and speaking with the [police] commissioner, we have raised the hourly wage for crossing guards and we’re confident that we will be ready for everything at the beginning of the school year. I personally, as a parent, feel incredibly reassured by the hard work that has gone on.”
Ryder said that at every single school board meeting or town hall meeting that he attends, he’s always asked about what the police department is doing about school safety.
“We plan, we prepare, we train, we integrate technology like the RAVE app, but we need to do more,” said Ryder. “We always need to do more.”
During the first day of school, students, parents and faculty saw a large amount of law enforcement in villages around Nassau County.
“We mandate that every single police car visits a school a day,” said Ryder. “There are 177 cars on patrol. They’ll go out and spend five minutes saying hello so when an incident occurs they know who the superintendent is, who the security guard is and where the rooms are in case they need to go in and initiate an active shooter situation.”
This year, every single police car will have two new tools in it. The first will be a tourniquet in case an artery is cut in an active shooter situation. Ryder said that all officers are trained on it and will have a secondary device in their vehicles if needed.
The second tool that the NCPD added this year is a breaching tool, which stops the police from having to wait on emergency services to get there.
“If someone is trapped behind a wall, through glass or behind a door and the shooter is inside the building and we have an exterior door, we’ll breach that door,” said Ryder. “Every single car will have it. They can use it from entering the side gap of the door and popping it open or they can use it as sledge.”
The same tools that the NCPD are now implementing will be offered to different village’s overtime.
“Our villages and county have all trained in this new tool along with the tourniquet and other devices,” said Ryder. “We’re working together as a team. Forty two percent of all people who were involved in shootings from Parkland back to Columbine said that they saw something and knew something and did nothing. We need you to engage and get involved. We need you to speak to us and let us know that if you know someone that is a concern to you, let us do our job.”
“On behalf of my colleagues in the county, I just want to affirm that everything that was said this morning is true and accurate,” said Nagler. “We regularly have officers stop into our buildings while they’re on patrol. They know who the principals are and they know the layout of the school. I have run into many of them in my travels in this district. We’ve been trained and we have unprecedented access to commanders of precincts to Homeland Security. They work with us to do our drills, and our policies and procedures and they’re always ready and able to come should we need them. I love the partnership. I’m happy to report that it’s vibrant.”