By Tristan Manaloto and Aleeza Kazmi
A member of Syosset’s Central School District Board said he will request an increase in security at the next board meeting, following the anti-Semitic and gang-related graffiti found at Syosset High School last week.
“I will make a public call to beef up security around all 10 buildings, so that an action of hate becomes an exception, as opposed to a precedent,” Joshua Lafazan, Syosset School Board of Education Trustee, wrote in a Facebook statement.
A school security guard found white spray paint on doors, walls, and windows in the back of the school the morning of August 27, according to a police report. Two Long Island reporters visited the school and noted there are no visible security cameras where the sprayed-on swastikas and MS13 symbols were found.
Hundreds of parents have called Lafazan questioning the capabilities of the security companies the district currently employs.
“I like the fact that Josh is stepping up to make the building and the school district more secure,” said Theresa Walch, who has been a parent in the district for over 20 years. “It would be good looking out for the children and the parents. Children for their safety, parents for their peace of mind.”
There are security guards seven days a week at the high school during certain hours, Robert Calabrese, the Long Island Regional Manager for Summit Security said. Summit Security is one of two security companies at Syosset High School.
“They’re there to patrol, make sure no one is breaking in, things like that,” Calabrese said.
After talking to Calabrese, two Long Islander reporters were able to walk into Syosset High School without being stopped by security last Sunday, the same day of the week when the vandalism occurred. One wing of the school was open during a cheer practice and there were no apparent security guards.
The Long Islander reached out to the public relations firm for Syosset Central School District, Syntax, seeking details about the district’s security capabilities. They declined to comment.
In a letter to the Syosset School community, Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Tom Rogers, affirmed the district’s commitment to the inclusion and safety of all students. The district is conducting their own internal investigation, in addition to the police investigation.
One of the windows that was spray-painted on Aug. 28.
The safety of Syosset High School students has not been questioned in the past, Jaeni Lee, who graduated from the school in 2015, said.
“I have seen security guards around our school but there was never a big issue where the security guards were needed,” Lee said.
Vandalism has occurred at the school before, but none of the acts were reported as hate crimes. In Aug. 2016, Patch, a local Long Island news website, reported that someone sprayed “F— Trump”, “Let’s Go D-Boy 17”, “Fire Calabria” and “Skool Suks” on a back wall of the high school.
“I believe that taxpayers deserve an answer as to where our security capabilities fell short and were inadequate, if it were up to me,” Lafazan said. “But again, I’m one ninth of the board, so I will see how the rest of my colleagues would like to handle the situation.”
Security won’t stop vandalism from happening when it is fueled by hate, according to Syosset School Board of Education President, Dr. Michael Cohen.
“You can put up all the cameras, you can have security guards, you can have bouncers. I’m being facetious here,” Cohen said. “You can have barbed wire and maybe that’ll prevent the actual act, but the goal is to connect people’s heads and thoughts to try to see why someone might get to this point.”
Police patrols have been intensified since the incident, Nassau County Detective Lieutenant Richard Lebrun said.
“All schools are always a priority and if a school is located on a officer’s post, they will make a concerted effort to always intermittently patrol the school grounds,” Lebrun wrote in an email to The Long Islander.
Nassau County Police released images of a potential suspect on Sept. 6, a week and a half after the incident. The images, captured by security cameras, show a caucasian female wearing a black mask.
The next Syosset School Board of Education meeting, scheduled for Monday, Sept.18, will be the first time the whole board will get a full briefing about the incident and the district’s current security capabilities.
“The reason this happened is because someone had hate in their heart,” Lafazan said. “The reason this was allowed to happen, I believe, was a shortfall in the security.”