The fallout from a news article about a deported student and police officers assigned to schools continued Monday night at the Huntington school board meeting.
Residents, including parents and alumni, came with questions about the process of setting guidelines for police officers in the schools while continuing security for students and staff in the buildings. One resident argued for barring school board members from representing students in private matters with the schools. Others, including former students, insisted that parents be better informed about what information the school resource officer collects, that the SRO not become involved in non-criminal disciplinary issues and that police not have access to student records.
Most important, parent Josh Dubnau argued, was for community involvement in determining the details of a memo of understanding between the Suffolk County Police Department and the school district. Polansky said he is working with the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association to develop a consensus on a memo of understanding.
Near the end of the meeting, when Dubnau returned to the lectern and said to Polansky, “You seem unwilling to accept community input or commit to a transparent process,” the superintendent responded, “My door’s always been open if people want to share their ideas. I never dismiss an idea….Don’t stand at that lectern and characterize me.” The debate continued for a few minutes after the meeting ended.
In response to the resident wanting school board members to not represent students in school matters, trustee Xavier Palacios responded, “I did not represent Alex, I don’t know him.”
The “Alex” Palacios referred to is a student who was deported to Honduras last year after coming to the attention of the school resource officer and others for behavior some thought indicated connections to the MS-13 gang.
A story published by the New York Times and Pro Publica said information provided by the officer ended up in a Suffolk police database that was accessible by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. Suffolk police later said ICE didn’t have access to the database and school and community representatives have disputed some of the article’s facts as well as the characterization of the town and the school district.
Two days after the school board’s last meeting where the story evoked emotions, three Huntington High School students were arrested in the stabbing of another student at the Burger King restaurant and accused of being members of MS-13.
Polansky also laid out details about the 2019-2020 school budget, delving into such issues as state aid, buildings with payments in lieu of taxes, tax payment scheduling and more.