By Amanda Wyatt
Prompted in part by the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut two months ago, the Bridgehampton School has started to ramp up its security and safety efforts.
On Monday evening, a public hearing was held at the school in order to update its code of conduct to reflect post-Sandy Hook considerations, as well as several other changes mandated by New York State and recommended by Bridgehampton’s board of education.
“We’re a big family here and we kind of loosen up on our own rules because we know everybody,” said school superintendent Dr. Lois Favre, “but we can’t do that anymore.”
Already, Dr. Favre said that Bridgehampton’s safety committee is working to ensure there is a single point of entry to the school. The new code of conduct states that all visitors — including parents — must enter through this entry point and present photo identification to the front desk. However, visitors attending functions after school hours do not have to register.
Visitors who wish to observe a classroom or school activity during the day must arrange the visit not only with the teacher, but also with the school’s principal, Jack Pryor. Parents will no longer be able to drop by classrooms to bring their children lunch or other items, added Dr. Favre. Instead, they will have to leave items at the front desk.
The school is also considering a number of other changes, like putting in additional cameras around the campus. It is also looking into installing magnetic identification card readers on the exterior doors to each building, as well as a system that would allow visitors to be buzzed into each building entrance after checking in with identification at the front desk.
Dr. Favre said the school would like to properly mark the outside of each building, and potentially each classroom window, with visible lettering.
The school is also thinking about upgrading its PA system to provide two-way “hands-off” communication. For example, the main office could initiate communication with a teacher and he or she could respond to the office without having to press any buttons on the PA system. Bridgehampton is also looking into upgrading the phone system to interface with the PA system.
In an email, Dr. Favre said the school is also considering the installation of “lock down” pull stations, which would be strategically placed in the hallways of each building, allowing a lock down to be activated throughout the school building.
Finally, the school hopes to provide the Southampton Town Police Department with detailed and updated plans for each building. Already, they said, they have given building tours to police officers who patrol the area.
In the meantime, there are additional changes to the code of conduct that were discussed at Monday’s public hearing. In response to the Dignity for All Students Act — anti-bullying and harassment legislation that took effect this summer — the school updated its policy on prohibited student conduct to include bullying.
In the code of conduct, harassment and bullying is defined as “the creation of a hostile environment by conduct or threats, intimidation or abuse.” It adds that harassing students or school personnel off-campus — including cyber bullying — is also subject to disciplinary action.
In order to comply with recent changes to state and federal policies, the school has also added synthetic cannabinoids — sometimes sold as “incense” or herbal mixtures as marijuana substitutes — and synthetic phenethylamines or “bath salts” to its list of prohibited substances.
Following past board discussions, the school has also changed its policy on student eligibility for participating in sports and other extracurricular activities. Students failing a subject will be placed on academic probation and must stay in homework club at the end of the day in order to remain eligible.
Those failing two or more subjects will be considered ineligible for extracurricular activities, including sports, and must attend homework club for at least five days and then continue to attend two days per week until they are off the list.