According to a 2018 statistic from CNN, the U.S. has experienced nearly 300 school shootings since 2009. With the high number of shootings, safety has become a very prominent topic in schools. On February 27, 2019, Commanding Officers Sergeant Norman Hall and Lieutenant Daniel Valentine of the Greenburgh Police Department visited the Schechter Westchester Upper School to discuss safety procedures in the event of a threatening situation. Although the chances of an incident occurring at SW remain slim, authorities still believe that it is beneficial to always be prepared so that students and faculty are not left in the dark.
The presentation given by Hall and Valentine consisted mostly of strategies that could be of assistance during an active shooting. Speaking to both the Middle School (grades 7 and 8) and the High School for 45 minutes each, they projected slides with photos, videos, and other information to help educate the community.
Valentine spoke to TLR about why he spends so much time presenting at schools. “We care about our community, and the schools are a huge part of our community. We’re parents… we want to make sure our kids are safe and our community is safe, and whatever we need to do to make sure that they are safe and aware is what we do,” Valentine said.
Following the presentation, many students were left impacted and with fresh views on school safety. Junior Kyle Mayblum said, “I think that it was really important to have the demonstration because one thing that they alluded to in the…presentation was that sometimes, with the amount of times that we do the lockdown drills… we do stuff without really thinking, like what they mentioned. We get into the positions and we don’t really think after that, so I think that it’s really important to have the presentation because, at least for me, it made me more aware that in times of crisis I need to stay calm and get a plan of action for just hiding.”
Similarly, sophomore Tamir Vittorio said, “I feel like I know a lot more about what’s going on in the school [after having attended the presentation], and if a situation does happen, I [would] understand what’s going on, so I feel safer.”
SW’s Director of Operations, Smadar Amidror, works very closely with the Greenburgh Police Department, as she plays a key role with regard to the safety of the building. “The Greenburgh police has been our partner and friend in [making this school secure]…even before my time here. They have been very committed to Schechter and to our community and I like to keep them very involved with the school because they know everything about the school; they know the surroundings of the school, they know the facility in and out… Partnering with them ensures that they are going to take very good care of us, and I know that they take care of everyone, but I think they have a special place for us in their heart because we do keep constant communication with them,” said Amidror.
In fact, Valentine stated that SW’s current safety status is “probably the best there is.”
The Greenburgh Police Department plays a major role in keeping the SW community safe, but SW has a lot of safety protocols of its own, as well, which work hand and hand with the Greenburgh Police Department. Amidror said, “We do a lot of stuff here internally in terms of security, I’m sure a lot of stuff that you guys don’t really realize that we do, but we have layers upon layers of security here, and Greenburgh feeds us with a lot of new information; things that we need to know, things that we need to change, [that] keeps us very prepared. I think we work in tandem very very well.”
In the end, everything in life comes down to safety. At this event, the Greenburgh Police Department helped the SW community become more aware of just that.
Associate Head of School Rabbi Harry Pell, on the importance of safety education, said: “I… think that presentations like these are essential. I think 10 years ago, we would have thought about this and been worried that it would scare students and we probably would have hesitated to do something like that, and it’s not that it isn’t scary, it’s that [there] are aspects of the world we live in, as amazing as the world we live in is, that are scary, and our obligation is to protect you, plain and simple.”