BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) — Schools are facing extra challenges this year. Aside from worries over testing and masks, more kids are acting out, and sometimes in ways that are violent or dangerous. Students at one Southern Tier high school returned to class last week to a few changes.
When you first walk in the door at Binghamton High School, there are now a series of metal detectors to go through. Private security guards wearing red school polo shirts greet students and scan their IDs.
Some students have to have their backpacks searched too. There are restrictions on how many kids can be outside the classrooms at a given time. There are sign-in sheets outside bathrooms and more adults monitoring the hallways. The school also removed banks of lockers from the hallways in an effort to keep teens from loitering between classes.
Those changes are meant to help reduce the incidence of behavioral issues. Classes went remote the week before the holidays after an incident involving an armed fight and a small fire set in a restroom.
Associate Principal Miriam Purdy said the school has seen a positive response to the new security protocols.
“It has had a significant impact on this building, immediately,” Purdy said. “First thing Monday morning, teachers, students, custodians, everybody was saying our building is coming back.”
The district came under fire in 2019 when it allegedly performed unlawful searches on several 12-year-old Black and Latina students at East Middle School. A federal lawsuit against the district was later dismissed. A statement by the school said the new security measures were meant to “maintain dignity while keeping BHS safe from threats.”
School leaders said the extra security will complement social and emotional support services added in September.
Binghamton City School District Superintendent Tonia Thompson said despite all the changes, some students were removed from Binghamton High and enrolled in alternative schools nearby or moved to partially remote learning.
“They may be coming in for half day and maybe remote the other half day, or might be fully remote,” Thompson said. “We are working with their families to find out what’s going to best meet the needs of the child.”
But Thompson said that the district has less control over conflicts that start outside the school, like some of the incidents that have plagued districts this year.
That was the case on Thursday morning, when a student was shot multiple times outside a Family Dollar store near the school. The shooting occurred about an hour after Thompson and Purdy spoke at a press event about the new security protocols.
Police say the suspect arrested in connection with the incident is a 17-year-old boy who was not enrolled at BHS. The victim, a 18-year-old boy, was taken to a hospital and is in stable condition.
The teenaged suspect in the shooting was charged with attempted murder and criminal use of a firearm. He will be tried as a minor.