Stuyvesant Holds School Safety Workshop

The Stuyvesant administration recently held a school safety workshop and extended homeroom about safety, prompting questions about how effective these safety protocols are.

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In recent months, Stuyvesant has had a large number of safety incidents, including a shelter-in due to an anonymous phone call on October 26 as well as an evacuation due to an anonymous email threat on November 9. In light of these emergencies, students and staff alike have expressed grievances regarding a lack of communication from administration. Students have stated that certain teachers are unaware of the proper emergency protocols during safety situations and of the fact that actual emergencies have been presented as mere drills. Due to this string of incidents and the backlash that followed, administration decided to hold a safety workshop webinar on December 5.

The administration organized the workshop to clarify expectations and provide general safety advice. “Through the safety committee, members expressed a desire to hear more on the topic of safety and we decided a panel discussion would be the most effective way to share tips, review protocols and answer questions,” Assistant Principal of Safety, Security, and Physical Education Brian Moran said in an e-mail interview.

Moran added that the goal of the workshop was to better prepare students and staff for potential safety emergencies. During the workshop, administration provided attendees with information on how emergency procedures are executed and the steps that are taken to notify the NYPD, Superintendent Office, and parents. “My hope is that by reviewing, preparing and drilling our response protocols, the entire school community will be better prepared to respond in the event of an emergency situation,” Moran said.

The workshop included a slide deck created by Moran, Principal Seung Yu, and Assistant Principal of Pupil Personnel Services Casey Pedrick. In addition to the slideshow presentation, there was time allocated for attendees to ask questions as well as additional information provided on how communication with students’ families is facilitated during emergencies. “I provided the information on communication and tips for family emergency planning[,] collected questions, moderated the event and synthesized the questions coming in from the webinar to moderate as well as [provide] answers to questions to families while running the webinar,” Business Manager and Director of Family Engagement Dina Ingram said in an e-mail interview. “It’s important that families allow us to handle an emergency and be patient with the understandable desire for information. Trust that we are doing our best to keep students and staff safe in an emergency situation and that as soon as we are able, we will always send out information.”

Administration expresses its recognition of the importance of student input in how Stuyvesant handles safety. “We have student representatives at monthly safety meetings and listen to their input. These meetings are closed to the public with the exception of one per year where we invite the entire community,” Ingram said.

Moran worked with Ingram as well as with the Parent’s Association Safety Committee to host the workshop and address parents’ concerns. The administration attempted to publicize the event to make it accessible to students and parents. “The advertising of the workshop was done through my weekly update, asking the SU to include in their Sunday [e-mails] and collaborating with the PA to advertise in their e-news and Instagram along with [e-mail] blasts to families,” Ingram said.

Some students found this workshop helpful in preparing for potentially dangerous situations. “My parents were watching [the webinar], so I wanted to watch it with them, but also since […] I’m a member of the school, I felt that I should be aware of what’s going on in terms of safety, so I can act accordingly if there’s ever an emergency,” freshman attendee Rohan Sen said. “It gave specific information about things you wouldn’t necessarily know, because you don’t plan about what to do when there’s an evacuation. So, knowing what you should do, instead of what you think you should do, is [important], for certain.”

However, many other students were unaware a safety workshop was taking place, which seemed to limit its effect. “I did not attend because I don’t think I knew about it that well. [...] I just kind of forgot about it,” sophomore Aeneas Merchant said. “They could have [announced] it through the morning announcement. [...] Stuff like that seems like the kind of thing you would put on an announcement, especially if it’s kind of like a school-sanctioned thing.”

To address the lack of student attendance, administration also implemented an extended homeroom on November 6 to ensure procedures covered during the workshop were accessible to the entire student body. Students and homeroom teachers went over safety protocols and engaged in discussions and a safety-related mix-and-match activity. “We wanted all students to benefit from a review of safety protocols. Whereas 268 [people] registered for the webinar and likely many more will watch the recording when released, the best way to ensure we reach all our students was to bring it into the classroom,” Ingram said.

A few students found the school safety homeroom helpful as a supplement to the safety workshop. “[The homeroom] engaged more people I’d say [...] cause you had to do the sorting game. It was sort of a more community thing, since we were doing group work. It helped me to memorize [the safety information] easier and it was engaging,” Sen said. “Plenty of my friends didn’t really know a lot of this stuff going into this school, since they never had been put in this situation. So I think this information before something happens is definitely better than having to learn the hard way.”

Other students questioned the effectiveness of the homeroom safety session. “It [was] just kind of your average homeroom that no one really cares about. Everyone just did [the activity] to get through it,” Merchant said. “I feel like [the homeroom] could’ve been a little more engaging. [...] These kinds of [activities] [...] almost feel like an insult to your intelligence.”

Some students note that the issue may be rooted in the larger inadequacies in pre-made safety protocols and emphasize the importance of communication during safety incidents, citing a fire at Brooklyn Technical High School on December 8 as an example. “When there is a fire, everyone crowding around walking single-file quietly [...] is never really how it’s going to be. [...] There’s gonna be people running, screaming, all that kind of stuff. It’s definitely not going to be the kind of idealized fire drill that, you know, we’ve been trained to do,” Merchant said. “Brooklyn Tech recently had that fire. It seems like a lot of the pre-made protocol didn’t hold up well, but everyone was pretty safe. So it’s more about what the staff and teachers do and communicate in [the] moment.”

It can also be difficult for students to perceive the difference between drills and actual emergencies, especially if emergencies are announced as drills. “[For] fire drills, especially, no one really imagines it as a [real] fire, because they think, ‘It’s a drill, we don’t really have to focus,’ so they just kind of walk down with their friends,” sophomore Santino Suarez said, noting that some students fail to take drills seriously. “So there’s this weird gray area every time [there is] an evacuation that’s like ‘What is really going on?’ and I think it’s misleading and confusing.”

Moving forward, the administration emphasizes its understanding of the importance of clear communication. “We do our best to communicate first to those directly affected in the emergency—students and staff internally—and then provide information and updates as deemed necessary to families, staff and students. I begin crafting communication and collecting information immediately once we know students and staff are safe,” Ingram said.