School safety forum handles school shootings and opioid crisis

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Police demonstrated the diamond formation tactic that will be used when in search for an active shooter. (Photo by Jessica Parks)

Parents, children and educators filled Hofstra’s auditorium on Tuesday night to learn about some of the greatest threats affecting schools and students.  

Police administrators, elected officials and community leaders spoke about initiatives to combat school shootings and drug overdoses in Nassau County.

Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder emphasized the need for a quicker emergency response time in mass shooting incidents. “Seventy percent of school shootings are done in five minutes,” he said, and 37 percent of school shootings are over in less than two minutes.

“Our average response times is three to five minutes,” said Ryder. “I have to close that gap.”

The county Police Department has a program that will require police officers to visit a school on every shift.

This is to help them gain a familiarity with the schools in their post, said Ryder. “If the police officer is told that the shooter is in the cafeteria, they will know where that is,” he said.

As part of the program, all students, school faculty and staff members are receiving active shooter training so they know where to hide, and what they can do to deter the shooter.

Schools will also have more frequent lockdown drills, said Ryder.

“It is no longer if it happens, it’s when it happens. When it happens, we’ll be prepared,” said Ryder.

Sgt. Kevin McCarthy of the Bureau of Special Operations detailed police procedures when responding to a school shooting.

Police officers will not do anything that impedes their ability “to stop more people from harm,” he said.

They will not stop for the injured or check individual classrooms unless they are told that one is the location of the shooter.

When in search of the shooter, officers will utilize a “diamond formation,” that typically includes five officers.

The forum also aimed to provide parents and children with the knowledge to pick up signs that could help prevent potential school shootings and drug overdoses.

Police Officer Robert Segretto of the Central Testing Division discussed the physical signs of drug use.

“Eyes are the window of the soul,” he said. “There is only one drug where pupils are constricted, that is opiates.”

“When a person exhibits dilated pupils, it is typically a sign of stimulant use,” said Segretto.

District Attorney Madeline Singas said it was important for parents to be prepared for the effects of drugs in their households.

“So many parents are saying not my child, but it could be your child,” she said. This perspective inspired the name of her program “Not My Child,” in which members of her staff talk to parents and educators about the signs of addiction and ways to stop it.

Steve Chassman, executive director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, or LICADD,  told students to get involved by pushing their schools to establish resources and programs to aid those with substance abuse problems.  

“Anyone that wants to start a program at their school or in their community can reach out to LICADD, and we will help you start a program,” he said.

“This is how you turn the corner on the heroin epidemic: everyone working together.”  

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