Manhasset Student Senate voices school security concerns

Danielle Rallis, a Manhasset senior and the Board of Education student representative, relayed the Student Senate's concerns to trustees Thursday. (Photo by Amelia Camurati)

A Manhasset student on Thursday relayed her and other students’ concerns about the lack of therapeutic support for students and potential security problems in the district in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

Board of Education student representative Danielle Rallis said during a board meeting that the Manhasset Student Senate made a list of three student concerns: points of accessibility to the school, the need for an armed resource officer and the need to have guidance counselors or therapists available to students throughout the day.

Rallis, a senior, said at the Manhasset Secondary School, which encompasses both the middle and high schools, there are too many different points of entry into the school — some that are watched by school officials and some that are not.

“There are a lot of doors that students have access to but also parents, any visitors and contractors,” Rallis said. “We have places where people can buzz in, but there’s no person to see who was just buzzed in. We have cameras, but I don’t know if they are watched all day or if we only look at them when something happens.”

Rallis also said Student Senate members voiced the desire for the administration to consider hiring a resource officer for the school, ideally a former police officer who is licensed to carry a firearm on campus in case of a school shooter.

The greatest concern, Rallis said, is to provide access to a guidance counselor or therapist for students to discuss problems at home, at school or with friends or just to talk through an emotional problem without judgment.

“We have five or six guidance counselors, but their main concern, especially in the beginning of the year, is always college, college, college,” Rallis said. “We focus on getting the parents in for meetings and after the seniors, it’s onto the juniors and their meetings. There really isn’t a time to go in and say, ‘Hi, can I please speak to you? I need someone to talk to.'”

Though the school does have staff psychologists, they are not available to all students all the time. Guidance counselors are staffed at every Manhasset school, but they are often in meetings with students, parents, teachers and administrators and are not always available at a moment’s notice to talk.

“After Parkland, a lot of kids came to school very upset,” Rallis said. “They didn’t want to talk to just anyone. Sometimes, you also have a lot on your place and things happen. Sometimes you want someone who doesn’t really know you so you can talk and get outside advice, and there wasn’t that accessibility.”

Trustee Ann Marie Curd asked if a type of discreet therapy room, staffed with professionals and available throughout the day, would be beneficial, and Rallis agreed.

Curd said at her son’s university, the college offers a similar set-up open throughout the afternoon and into the evening for students to come if they desire a second opinion on their emotional state or personal concerns.

“Even before Parkland, it always comes junior year,” Rallis said. “A lot of kids have a huge workload, and it sometimes it gets to a point where they don’t know if they should go to their parents or maybe they just want to vent. Sometimes talking to your friends doesn’t help because we’re all going through it.”

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