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Mar 5, 2018 4:22 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Eastport South Manor Students Show Support For Florida School

Kimmie Hurd holds up a bracelet. VALERIE GORDON
Mar 7, 2018 11:38 AM

After a long day at school on February 14, Eastport South Manor seniors Victoria Kochetova, Angelina Zingariello and Kimmie Hurd were ready to unwind, maybe catch a few hours of television before they dove into their homework.

But when Angelina turned on her TV, she was greeted not with Dr. Phil but rather with the news that 17 people—including 14 students—were shot and killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

“We were all on the verge of tears,” Kimmie said on Monday of the reaction she and her friends had to the mass shooting.

“It really emotionally affected us, because these were high schoolers just like us,” Victoria added.

In the wake of the shooting, the three friends worked together to sell wristbands, the proceeds of which will be donated to the families of the shooting victims. The students, who purchased 400 wristbands, will cut a check for the final amount and donate it directly to the Broward Education Foundation, which is operating a GoFundMe page benefiting the families of the victims.

The red silicone wristbands­—which read “ESM STANDS WITH PARKLAND” on one side, and “#NEVERAGAIN” on the other—are being sold for $3 before and after classes in the Manorville school’s main entrance rotunda.

The friends discussed the idea for the wristbands the day after the Valentine’s Day shooting, when alleged gunman Nikolas Cruz opened fire at the Florida school campus just as afternoon classes were letting out.

“I knew I wanted to help do something in our community after the tragic shooting,” Victoria said, adding that they started selling the wristbands on March 2, and raised approximately $500 that day alone. “I saw movements happening nationwide in support, and I was very inspired.”

In just four days, the students have sold more than 200 wristbands and raised a total of $1,100, according to Angelina. The initial cost of the wristbands—approximately $140—was covered thanks to donations from the three seniors, as well as their fellow cast and crew members of this year’s high school musical, “Godspell.” The wristbands were ordered through an online service, 24 Hour Wristbands.

For Kimmie, “it’s less about the money—it’s more about showing that we stand together. It’s about students unifying,” she said. “By wearing the wristbands, we can show that we stand with our fellow students.”

Angelina and Victoria agreed: “Not only do these bracelets raise money, everyone around the school is wearing them. It shows support,” Angelina said. “I am so proud that ESM is coming together—unified, with love, and spreading our supportive message,” Victoria wrote in an email.

The Parkland shooting marked the 30th mass shooting in 2018, according to the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive, which tracks shootings in the United States. It is also the worst school shooting since the December 14, 2012, massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, where gunman Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 first-graders and six adults.

“These people are just like us. They were going to graduate,” Victoria said of the victims of the Parkland shooting. “No one expects it to happen in their school.”

With there being almost as many shootings as there have been days in 2018, many schools—including Eastport South Manor—have taken steps to increase security within their walls.

According to an announcement on the district’s website, dated Friday, March 2, the Eastport South Manor Junior-Senior High School’s main entrance was reconfigured last week. The security reception desk was moved forward and the doors were secured so that guards will now manually open the door for visitors throughout the school day.

The school’s technology crew also recently installed a laptop with Raptor Visitor Management Software, a computer scanning system by Raptor Technologies out of Houston, Texas, which will screen the driver’s licenses of all visitors against a registered sex offender database, providing officials with instant information.

In a letter dated February 15, Eastport South Manor Superintendent Dr. Patrick Brimstein notified parents that the district has also been working with an unidentified consultant since December to design enhanced security and monitoring systems districtwide. The work will be funded through the Smart Schools Bond Act—which made available $2 billion in state funding to finance technology upgrades in districts across New York—according to Dr. Brimstein. He noted that the district was awarded $2 million of those funds.

“Because safety plays a central role in protecting our students, we focused additional efforts to assess and review safety procedures, building access, and security protocols,” Dr. Brimstein wrote in the letter, noting that parents could expect to see increased police presence at the school.

In addition, the superintendent noted that the high school’s lockdown committee, which meets monthly to review and update safety procedures, will meet with officials from the Suffolk County Police Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the Criminal Intelligence Bureau to review a “comprehensive emergency preparedness plan that was developed with input from the police and volunteer fire departments.”

Dr. Brimstein added that the district plans to construct security vestibules, similar to the one already featured at the junior-senior high school entrance, in the main lobby in each of its four elementary schools. When finished, the areas will feature two sets of double doors and a welcome window connecting to the main office where visitors will be required to check in, Dr. Brimstein said. Once they receive clearance, visitors will be buzzed through the second set of double doors.

Marie Bouchard Gouldsbury, whose two children attend the junior senior high school, said in a recent interview that she is concerned for her children’s safety.

“Let’s face it: They’re kids and they don’t think it will ever happen to them,” Ms. Gouldsbury said. “It’s scary.”

She pointed to the school’s multiple entrances, particularly those alongside the woods and Pine Hills Drive, which she said are far from secure. “The way the building is designed is less than desirable if a gunman was to come in,” she said. “People who are intent on causing harm, they go to all lengths.”

Ms. Gouldsbury is among 80 ESM parents who voted “yes” to a recent poll in a community Facebook page, titled “ESM Parent Advocates,” urging the district to hire armed guards to protect their children should an incident occur on campus.

Dr. Brimstein said on Monday that the Board of Education would discuss the likelihood of arming the district’s security guards at this week’s board meeting, set for the evening of Wednesday, March 7. “I don’t get the sense that that is the direction that we’re leaning,” he said.

The Miller Place School District was among the first Long Island schools to hire armed personnel following last month’s Parkland shooting. Four armed, retired New York Police Department officers were assigned to each of the district’s four schools—Miller Place High School, North Country Road Middle School, Laddie A. Decker Sound Beach School and Andrew Muller Primary School—last month, joining 14 unarmed security staffers already employed by the 2,707-student district, according to school officials.

In the meantime the district’s junior and senior high school students will have the opportunity to voice their concerns, as well as honor the victims of the recent school shooting, by participating in a national walkout on Wednesday, March 14, at 10 a.m.

According to ESM’s public relations advisor, Sean Rayburn, district officials fully support the walkout. He explained last week that no disciplinary action will be taken against those students interested in participating as long as they do so in an orderly fashion and do not disrupt the students who wish to be excluded.

He added that the high school’s principal, Salvatore Alaimo, might participate in the walkout as well to support mental health awareness.

“It’s about honoring the people whose lives were lost,” Angelina said of the school walkout, noting that she will be participating on March 14.

“Change needs to happen,” Victoria said. “We just want to make our school safe.”

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