Three disturbing incidents at and around New York City schools have already put nervous parents, students and teachers on edge this week.
On Wednesday, the day after the elementary school massacre in Texas, an intruder ran into Public School 118 in Park Slope, Brooklyn and started a chase through the hallways, forcing the school to shut down and intimidating children, teachers and parents.
“Every day would have been outrageous, but this coming Wednesday was just a lot,” said Mara Getz Sheftel, a parent of two students at the school.
So on Thursday, two weapons were discovered outside the city’s schools – one was a ghost gun in a book bag allegedly dropped by a student outside a high school in Brooklyn, and the other was on a construction site outside a Bronx elementary school. So far this year, 20 firearms have been found at schools in the five boroughs.
Police say they have no evidence that anyone would harm children in schools.
Yet the frightening episodes have aroused fear among some parents and children and recharged debates about how to keep the city’s schools safe.
Ministry of Education spokeswoman Jenna Lyle said the DOE is working “with our agency partners at FDNY and NYPD to explore all possible options to ensure our schools remain as safe as possible in all situations and continue to serve as a safe haven for our children”. – places where our students seek refuge and support when they need it. “
The incident at PS 118 in Brooklyn unfolded Wednesday morning when a woman whom police described as “emotionally disturbed” ran through a back door to Park Slope Elementary School when the children arrived around 8:30 p.m., police said.
Adina Lerner said as she handed over her children that she heard the principal “scream … then I could see she was starting to chase someone.”
The school was immediately closed and police were called, parents said.
“My kids were each hiding in their teacher’s closets … my daughter came home and said, ‘my back hurts to hide in the closet,'” Lerner said.
Police said the woman was detained and taken to United Methodist Hospital for observation.
Lerner and Sheftel both said they felt “really lucky” that nothing worse happened, and credited the school’s “amazing” staff and principal for their quick response.
Thursday’s gunfight was set in motion when an 18-year-old Brooklyn high school student warned school officials that her boyfriend was planning to bring a gun to campus, police said. When school security agents in the old Boys High School building in Bedford-Stuyvesant, which houses three schools, searched the perimeter, they found a book bag with a 9mm “ghost gun” and ammunition, police said.
Later that evening, another firearm was found by construction workers at a workplace outside Public School 67 in the Bronx, according to police and school security sources.
DOE’s executive director of security and youth development, Mark Rampersant, called firearms rashes a “real problem.”
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Mona Davids, a parent and leader of the NYC School Safety Coalition, a group that has pushed for additional metal detectors and school police, said “as a parent, I’m afraid there’s a shooting at a school in New York City with so many firearms seized by school security agents. “
Off the Boys High School campus, students said they felt safe in school despite the gun scare, pushing for broader community solutions to stem the tide of firearms.
“I think many times it’s a matter of mental health first,” said 22-year-old Tiffany Smith.
“We need more programs to help students who have a mental health crisis, especially if they come from a community where you have access to weapons,” she added.
Sam Encarnacion, 20, said the metal detectors at the entrance to his school assure him that a weapon does not reach inside. “I do not feel that the government or the school can really help us. I think more, it’s a community effort. That’s how it should be handled, he said.
Parents at PS 118 claim there is more that can be done to prevent strangers from entering schools, and say they have been pushing for years to lock the school’s front door.
The DOE’s current policy requires the main entrance to remain unlocked in the event of an emergency, but requires that all other entrances be locked, according to a spokeswoman. Schools Chancellor David Banks said Wednesday that he is considering revising the front door policy and keeping all doors locked.