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Time For 'Heinous' School Metal Detectors to Go, Officials Say

By Emily Frost | November 24, 2014 7:31am
 Some board memebrs thought they prejudiced families against the high schools and made them seem dangerous. 
CEC 3 Calls for Review of Use of Metal Detectors
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UPPER WEST SIDE — Students, faculty, staff and visitors to 10 Upper West Side high schools have to pass through a metal detector — a "heinous" and outdated protocol that gives off a negative impression of the schools, local education leaders said. 

Members of Community Education Council 3 are now calling on the NYPD, Department of Education and elected officials to review the policy, which is enforced at the Brandeis and Martin Luther King Jr. complexes but not at any other neighborhood school.

"The neighborhoods surrounding these buildings, the schools and the student populations have all changed since the metal detectors were initially installed 17 years ago," Community Education Council members said in a resolution passed Thursday night calling for a review.

New visitors to the two school complexes often get a negative impression when they first encounter the NYPD-operated metal detectors, CEC 3 President Joe Fiordaliso said.

"Parents and students discount [the high schools] because they seem unsafe," he said. 

The 20th Precinct did not respond to a request for information on crime occurring at the schools. 

CEC member John Fitzsimons agreed that metal detectors stigmatize the schools. 

"It’s really a disincentive for parents," to apply, he said of the extra security. "Either put [metal detectors] in all schools or get rid of them," he said. 

Removing metal detectors doesn't have to mean doing away with all school safety measures, added CEC member Zoe Foundotos.

"There are other ways of providing security that are not quite so heinous and obvious. There could be spot checks. There could be wands," she said.

The topic often comes up among students, Leslie Seifert, a former journalism teacher at two of the schools in the Brandeis complex, told DNAinfo New York.

"The students who are vocal about it feel it is demeaning and can make them late for class when the line gets too long in the morning," he explained.

Students also argue that the campus has changed since Brandeis was dissolved and broken into smaller schools, he said.

Brandeis and Martin Luther King Jr. were both once large high schools that the Bloomberg administration closed in 2012 and 2005, respectively,  and replaced with smaller schools organized around different themes.

Both schools were known for their violence, especially MLK Jr. High School, where a gunman snuck past the metal detectors and shot two 10th-grade boys in 2002.

But students believe times have changed, Seifert said.

"Their new small school doesn’t need [metal detectors]," he said students have argued, asking why "they have to go through this."

Other students, however, have said the detectors makes them feel safer, Seifert said.

The principals of the six schools at the MLK Jr. complex — the School for Law, Advocacy and Community Justice; Manhattan/Hunter College High School of Science; High School for Arts, Imagination and Inquiry; High School of the Arts and Technology; Urban Assembly School for Media Studies; and the Manhattan Theatre Lab High School — did not respond to requests for comment on the policy. 

The principals at three of the four high schools at the Brandeis High School complex — the Global Learning Collaborative; Innovation Diploma Plus; and the Urban Assembly for Green Careers — also did not respond to requests for comment.

Principal Danielle Salzberg of Frank McCourt High School, the fourth inside the Brandeis complex, declined to comment.

The Upper West Success Academy charter elementary school also shares space with the four high schools at Brandeis. While visitors to the charter use the main entrance and must pass through the metal detector, students use a separate entrance and do not pass through it, according to a school spokeswoman.

The Department of Education declined to comment and deferred to the NYPD, claiming metal detectors are run by school safety officers, who report to the police department. However, an NYPD spokeswoman said decisions regarding metal detectors are shared by the NYPD and the DOE.

The NYPD spokeswoman did not comment on whether the department would review the use of metal detectors in these locations.