Great Neck School District’s superintendent, Teresa Prendergast, announced last week that heightened security measures have been instituted throughout the district after a spate of attacks against the Asian-American and Jewish populations.
She said all schools throughout the district remain locked from the exterior and that the district does not permit any visitors to enter the building
Prendergast also said the district’s security office is operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including holidays, and that each school has assigned security guards.
The Nassau County Police Department, she said, has also increased the presence of patrol cars throughout the district, and officers from the department’s Problem Oriented Police sector work closely with district officials to ensure the safety of students, staff and teachers at all times.
“I think we all realize that there have been recent news stories about violence and discrimination against many people, and that certainly has heightened concerns within our community,” Prendergast said.
This is an example of a crazy idea that makes perfect sense.
Crazy because a school district is spending time and money to ensure the safety of its students rather than educating them—at the tail end of a pandemic that has robbed students of valuable learning time.
Sensible because the threats against students in Great Neck and across the country are real and not just for reasons of religious and racial hatred. There is also the easy availability of guns, including weapons of war.
Schools across the country have already spent valuable education dollars to make their buildings hard targets following the massacre in 2012 in Sandy Hook, Conn., when a disturbed 20-year-old man shot and killed 26 people, including 20 children between 6 and 7 years old, and six adult staff members.
There have been more than 2,500 mass shootings since then in churches, synagogues, mosques, concerts, places of business and almost any spot where groups of people congregate.
And despite a large majority of Americans – including Republicans and gun owners – supporting gun-safety measures – Congress has done nothing to even slow the carnage at a national level. No universal background checks. No ban of assault rifles. No nothing.
Added to this toxic mess is Donald Trump – a president who inflamed racial and religious hatred while running for president, serving as president and after he lost the presidency, something that he still refuses to acknowledge.
In fact, rather than acknowledging his defeat, he incited an armed mob to attack the Capitol in an effort to overturn the outcome of a presidential election.
In the process, the lives of the vice president, the House speaker, other elected officials and congressional staffers were threatened. And more than 140 police officers were injured in the worst attack on the home of this country’s democracy since the War of 1812.
Some rioters carried Confederate flags. Some wore T-shirts saying Camp Auschwitz and 6MNE – 6 million is not enough, a reference to the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust.
Trump may have been the major source of rising racial and religious hatred but he wasn’t the only source. There has never been of shortage of hatred for the other throughout history and certainly not for Jews.
Israel’s ongoing issues with Palestinians have stoked passions in recent history and last month’s violence in Gaza and Israel inflamed those passions even further with all Jews being wrongly blamed for what the Israeli government under Benjamin Netanyahu did in some cases.
In that context, increasing security precautions at Great Neck schools sounds reasonable. If not also crazy.
Now, students in Great Neck and elsewhere are not the first to come face to face with the real world.
Black students in this country lived through inferior segregated schools generation after generation going back to the mid-19th century.
Students in the 1950s were subject to drills in which they crouched beneath their desks to avoid the threat of a nuclear holocaust that could destroy the world, apparently with the exception of those safe areas under the school desks.
So there have been threats to students before.
Still, it seems strange on the North Shore of Long Island in the year 2021 that precautions are necessary to protect against crazed gunmen, acting for racial or religious reasons or just no reason at all.
The threat is also not limited to the physical safety of students.
The teaching of history to students has always been subject to politics. Inconvenient facts such as the 250 years of slavery, 100 years of Jim Crow and centuries of mistreatment of Native Americans were often omitted – to the disadvantage of all of us.
Just think about all those statutes and buildings honoring men who committed treason by attacking the United States in an effort to preserve a system where a whole class of people was treated as property.
An entire movement has begun to actually teach what happened in history, especially the treatment of Blacks in an effort to understand, as Columbia Professor Jelani Cobb said in a Tweet, “how George Floyd wound up dead on a street corner.”
This has spurred an attack on so-called critical race theory – a study of systemic racism taught in law schools that is said by critics to be infecting every level of education – and legislation in places like Texas to teach “patriotic history.”
The stakes of this battle may be equally important to students on the North Shore.
We think it is time for schools and parents to take a hard look at what students are taught in history class.
It seems to us another crazy idea that makes sense