Weeks after an attack in the cafeteria that sent one student to the hospital, heightened security measures continue at Kingston High School (KHS). And despite no weapons being used in the May 3 incident, district officials are looking into installing metal detectors.
During a meeting of the Board of Education held on Wednesday, May 17, Superintendent Paul Padalino said administrators have begun meeting with other small city districts with metal detectors like Newburgh and Middletown to discuss processes and procedures. Discussions have also been underway with vendors about costs and how the technology works, and are asking longtime architecture firm KSQ Design to consider how to install metal detectors unobtrusively.
“We don’t want to look like the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) coming through Kingston High School,” Padalino said. “But is there some way we can incorporate that into our current architecture in the buildings?”
One district stakeholder group that might not favor installing metal detectors are students. Kingston High School Principal Kirk Reinhardt said a recent informal forum with some KHS students revealed support for some security measures, but not for metal detectors on campus.
“Their reasoning was very sound,” Reinhardt said. “One was pretty scientific, and I was proud of that being a former physics teacher. They wanted to know if there were variations on the sensitivity of the detectors, because one student showed me four or five items that she felt would trigger (a metal detector) and that would slow down the process.”
“They were also concerned about the optics,” Reinhardt added. “What does it look like if we have metal detectors?”
Reinhardt said students generally supported bag checks, which went into effect the day after the cafeteria attack. The principal said that they’ve added more volunteer staff to check bags at the Broadway, Salzmann and Kate Walton Field House entrances to help minimize delays at the start of the school day.
During lunch periods an additional security officer has been added to the cafeteria, Reinhardt said. And school resource officers are not only roaming the entire campus, but also spending time in the cafeteria.
“It’s not always just how many people are on staff or what those staff are doing,” Reinhardt said. “We’re looking at walking patterns, coverage patterns, everything we can do within the district.”
Reinhardt said the informal forums with students will continue, particularly those who may feel traumatized or shaken by the attack in the cafeteria.
“We’re continuing meeting with students that we feel that are in crisis,” he said. “We’re still reaching out to any students that were there in that period where we had that tragedy. And we’re considering counseling.”
Reinhardt said that any student who feels they need help should reach out to a staff member whether they’re in a forum or not. He added that one question asked in the forums was whether students felt safe at Kingston High.
“They said they did,” Reinhardt said. “(Students felt) that this was unique because of the fact that they felt this was more planned and more targeted, not random. And they did appreciate the additional staffing, but they felt safe within the school.”
But during a public comment period, Kriston DeLisio said his daughter didn’t feel safe.
“My daughter was closer than the end of this podium to that experience, and she’s still having trouble today,” said DeLisio. “I know that I shared with some of you that I went to her bedroom at 10 o’clock at night and she was standing there frozen, tears coming down her face after she texted me to go to her bedroom, going, ‘Dad, I cannot get this out.’ She’s having a tough time.”
In a viral video recorded by at least one student on a smartphone, authorities identified an unnamed 15-year old as kicking the victim in the head while 16-year-old Ty’Juan Gray leapt from a cafeteria table onto the victim’s head.
“Who’s accountable and who’s telling the students that it’s gonna be safe as they go forward?” asked DeLisio. “This has to stop and be taken care of for us as a community and most importantly, for my daughter and all of her peers in the Kingston High School.”