No matter how much of an expert one is, something can be learned from those who are living through it.
Over two dozen people participated in the School Security Roundtable hosted by State Senator Greg Ball and Putnam County Sheriff Don Smith on Saturday, April 20 at Carmel Town Hall. Each was an expert in their field. Yet, it was the group of students who sit on Ball’s student advisory council that brought a perspective to school security that was not really considered by the others.
The young people said it is vital for students to have stake at the table when talking about school safety because they have had firsthand experience. The students spoke on how effective and important their school resource officers (SRO) are. The students also shared their thoughts on bullying in schools and the stigma of receiving mental health services.
Steven Youssef, a Carmel High School junior who is the co-chair of the advisory council, spoke to the group about bullying and how it is a contributing factor to the violence.
“I think that the issue of bullying is getting better,” said Youssef. “People are beginning to realize the damage it can cause.”
Brewster senior Drew Podgorski, who is also co-chair of the student advisory committee, acknowledged that his school has a huge security lapse when it comes to the students.
“Even though it is policy not to open the doors for anyone, everyone does it,” said Podgoski. “If someone knocks on the door a student will let them in.”
Although there are signs posted that indicate that no person is supposed to allow anyone in the building, Podgoski said that the rule is not enforced.
“What good is having a sign if no one is going to enforce the rule,” he said.
Who a student turns to when they need to confide in someone was another topic brought up.
While the experts gave the laundry list of people who were trained to deal with any kind of situation, right down to a second-shift custodian, it was the students who are much more realistic about the situation.
After being told that the schools have counselors on staff, Podgoski admitted that as a senior who had been in the high school for four years he had no idea where the school psychologist was.
“That is really sad,” he said.
The students acknowledged that the school resource officer would be one person they would turn to or a teacher.
Lawrence Keane, a Mahopac school board member who is a former middle school principal, agreed that teachers used to be the real first line of defense.
However with so many cuts to teachers in recent years increased class sizes have made it is harder for students to develop a relationship with a teacher.
“We need funding for more teachers,” he said.