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EDITORIAL: Efforts by Utica school officials to put emphasis on safety is welcome

Posted 11/18/22

Staff, students and those associated with the Utica City School District should take pride in the district’s response since the unsettling Oct. 31 knife assault at Proctor High School. Utica City …

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EDITORIAL: Efforts by Utica school officials to put emphasis on safety is welcome

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Staff, students and those associated with the Utica City School District should take pride in the district’s response since the unsettling Oct. 31 knife assault at Proctor High School.

Utica City School District Acting Superintendent Brian Nolan outlined the district’s efforts to improve the safety and security of students, teachers and staff at the school during this week’s Board of Education meeting on Tuesday.

Nolan said while viewing the “horrific” video of the attack, district officials kept asking how a knife could have gotten into the school, finding out that the weapons detection system at Proctor was not designed to detect knives at all but to spot only “weapons of mass casualties” like guns, rifles and machetes.

That deficiency, Nolan said, is being addressed with the purchase of 10 walk-through metal detection units and 10 X-ray scanners to replace the old system. The installation of the detectors, he said, has been fast-tracked with the hope of having them in place at week’s end.

The district also increased all security personnel from 29 to 35 hours a week at all schools, and installed 170 new cameras throughout the district, replacing 150 old cameras and adding 20 new camera locations. Officials also enabled a text messaging app as a compliment to the current robocall app to communicate quickly with parents.

Today, Nolan said, district officials were meeting with community leaders from law enforcement, the court system, social services and other interested parties to look into “unaffiliated community youth groups” and how to keep their issues from spilling over into the school buildings.

Additionally, Nolan said, representatives from Safe Schools Oneida County are already in the district to offer their counsel; and the district is looking at ways to increase staff in all schools to provide engagement counselors to identify who might be members of those unaffiliated community youth groups or who might be thinking about joining.

During the board meeting, Nolan and board members honored Proctor physical education teachers Kelli Bikowsky, Brian Koscinski and Carvon Brazier for their efforts to control the incident on Oct. 31 and assist the injured student.

Moving forward, Nolan said the district will seek to “create a climate and culture where the kids feel secure, where they have a relationship with an adult, where if they see something or hear something or know something they will feel confident they can go to someone who is going to be discreet and take that information and help us out.”

While these efforts may only be a start to make the impact in school safety that staff, students and parents want to see — they are encouraging signs that district officials aren’t just listening but are putting what they hear into action.

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