Getting to Know Our School Safety Agent

Three different school safety agents explain how they ended up working at Stuyvesant and why they love it.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Every day we walk into school and swipe in at the scanners to start our day. And every day, we pass the security desk without giving a thought to the school safety agents that sit there. You may know of the safety agents as people who make you show your ID before coming back into the building. These agents, however, are much more than people guarding the entrance. School safety agents are officially responsible for securing the building and following protocol. Many of the school safety agents, however, go beyond their official roles and care for the students who walk by their desk every morning.

One of Stuyvesant’s safety agents is Rosalin Burns. Agent Burns dropped out of college due to her financial situation. Having difficulty paying her rent and supporting herself, she decided to become a safety agent and had to undergo training as well as a test to prove she was ready for the job. The test, however, was not the most difficult part. “[The most difficult challenge was] coming to the field,” Agent Burns explained. “Coming out and doing the job [...] the problem is coming out to the school.”

Though Agent Burns started out at the lowest rank, a Level One safety agent, she wanted to experience all levels of the job. She worked her way up from a Level One security agent to a Level Three agent, a position analogous to a sergeant in the police department. Now she is a respected safety agent. “[I have] four clusters. I have 15 agents under me. I sort of supervise them all in regards to rules and regulations of the job,” Agent Burns said. Clusters are groups of school safety agents that are supervised under one Level Three agent. In the case of an emergency, the Level Three agent determines what the lower ranks do to keep the school safe.

Shahida Begum had quite a different path that led her to work at Stuyvesant. Agent Begum was born and raised in Bangladesh. She moved to the United States 12 years ago when she was 17-years old. Her first job in the U.S. was completely different from her current job as a safety agent. Twelve years ago, she worked as a medical assistant for a private company, but her family encouraged her to find a job in law enforcement and move up the ranks because they wanted her to learn about law in the U.S. “In 2017, I decided to enroll myself into law enforcement, and I got called within nine months to the job, but I had to go through pre-organized military training. It was pretty hard, but I made it,” Agent Begum said. Through all the challenges Agent Begum faced before becoming a safety agent, she was able to pull through because of the motivation her father gave her. Her father reminded her that getting a job in law enforcement would be a stepping stone for Agent Begum to better her life.

A colleague of Agent Begum, Natasha Smith is yet another safety agent who ended up at the Stuyvesant security desk in a completely unexpected way. She was born in Panama and is a Level One agent. Level One agents have various jobs including checking visitors, making sure no unauthorized items are being brought in, walking around the building, and writing incident reports. “I always wanted to work with children, so this is my opportunity,” Smith explained. After working at Morgan Stanley for 16 years and being laid off, she decided to pursue a career in law enforcement. This career path seems to be a family trend; two of Smith’s sisters also have jobs in law enforcement.

Smith went through the police academy for three and a half months in order to graduate and become a school safety agent. The training was similar to pre-military training, but despite the challenge, she didn’t give up. “My dad and my son kept me motivated. I didn’t want to show my son that I was giving up on something so that's what kept me going,” Smith said.

Even though Smith chose to become a school safety agent because she had always loved the idea of working with children, not all children feel the same toward her. “[Students] are scared of us, but we don’t do anything. We love all the kids,” Smith said.

Though the safety agents do care for the students tremendously, they are often stereotyped and seen in a bad light. Junior Jonathan Xu explained his personal encounters with school safety agents. During his freshman year, while doing homework in the Hudson Staircase during his lunch period, a particular school safety agent always seemed to bother him. He recalled, “She always kicked me off the staircase and claimed that it was a fire hazard, even though I was very obviously the only student there.”

When asked about this, Smith told us that “We just follow protocol from [the] principal.” Though it may seem that some safety agents are sticklers for rules, they’re merely following orders.

Though some students like Xu might believe that some security guards wrongfully force them to move their location during a lunch period, many students love the safety guards as much as they care about us. Senior Cecilia Bachana recalled a small moment she shared with a school safety agent while entering the theater. “One time I was entering the theater just behind two officers, and one of them was singing absentmindedly. I complimented her singing because it was nice, and she was so touched, and it made me so happy,” she said. The seemingly little moments that connect students with the school safety agents allow us to understand them better as people. Even though they are authority figures, they can often just be people to talk to or ask for advice.

Though school safety agents are present to enforce the rules, they also hold very strong connections with the students at Stuyvesant. They love interacting with the students and getting to know them. For Begum, her favorite aspect of her job is the happiness of the children. “[I’m happy] when the kids are happy, when they graduate,” Begum said.

Smith advises students: “Don't give up. There's so much more out there, and there are so many other people that have it worse than you,” Smith said. Students are precious to the agents of our school. “We love our Stuyvesant students,” Smith said with a smile.