BACK TO SCHOOL

School security — how much is too much?

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Each morning, Samantha Evans, wrangles with hundreds of students pushing to get to the counter of Kingsbridge Ave. Inc. deli and grocery so she can store her LG Optimus phone there for $1 a day. 

At about 8:40 a.m., 27 minutes before the Bronx Theatre High School bell rings, she joins the line behind the metal detectors guarding the first-floor entrance to the John F. Kennedy Campus, where her school is located. 

The grace period prevents her from being tardy if stormy weather extends the pauses between pings the computers emit each time students swipe their IDs. At the front of the line, Samantha slides her bag across the conveyer belt, removes the belt, chain necklace and hoop earring she typically wears, and walks through a scanning system designed to catch weapons and electronics.

During afternoon dismissal, Samantha says security personnel shoo her and her friends away from the campus, leaving her mystified about why benches were installed near the parking lot.

“It makes your school look bad because it’s like ‘Oh, they must have delinquents over there at that school.’ I’m not a delinquent. I’m ashamed to say that I’m in Kennedy Campus. I say I go to Bronx Theatre High School. They say, ‘Where’s that at?’ And I’ll be like, ‘Riverdale,’” Samantha said, even though the school is located in nearby Kingsbridge. 

Students at the Kennedy Campus — which cycled through the Impact Schools program designed to clean up campuses with high crime rates –– face more stringent security than their peers at other schools. But, throughout Riverdale, Kingsbridge and Marble Hill, students can’t escape increased policing and zero-tolerance discipline policies.

School crime rates have dropped nationwide over the past decade. Yet security cameras, student ID cards and armed officers are becoming ingrained in campus life. Researchers say the physical steps to curb misconduct help assuage general distress about the state of education.

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