The last armed police officer assigned to a New York City public school was removed last week and parents are not happy.
The move comes just weeks after a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14. There was an armed school officer at that school who failed to act, but parents nationwide are increasingly wary of their children's safety at school in the massacre's aftermath.
According to the New York Post, Sgt. Raul Espinet — who spent more than a dozen years working at Francis Lewis HS in Fresh Meadows, Queens — was removed from the school last week and re-assigned. More from the Post:
Espinet’s position was eliminated because cops in Mayor de Blasio’s new community policing units will visit schools while patrolling the neighborhood, according to the NYPD. School safety agents are stationed at all schools, but are not armed.
The once-common practice of putting an armed cop in schools waned in the 1990s. All were gradually eliminated, but Francis Lewis, one of the biggest high schools, slipped by. Bayside and Benjamin Cardozo high schools also recently lost their full-time NYPD officers, according to parents.
To make matters worse, Francis Lewis is a very overcrowded school with more than 4,400 students. Parents are also on high alert after a recent online threat from a teenager targeting the school, according to the Post.
Lt. John Grimpel, an NYPD spokesman, told the Post Espinet was the last full-time NYPD officer assigned to a public school.
How are people reacting?
Teacher Arthur Goldstein told the Post: "My colleagues think it’s outrageous — and really stupid. We’re not enthusiastic about arming teachers, but we liked having a cop around."
PTA president Linda Lovett also slammed the move.
"It’s ridiculous. All over the country they are telling you ‘arm the teachers, get an officer in your school.’ New York City had a designated officer and they are actually cutting the program...they are making us less secure," she said.
“You are talking about 5,000 people in a one-block radius, and you’re telling me you can’t designate one officer?” she added.
Al Lahood, a social studies teacher, told the Post Espinet's presence will be missed because he was an integral part of the success of the school.
"He was as much of a social worker as a police officer. He was part of the school community. Without him...there’s a vacuum, a piece that’s missing," he said.
Meanwhile students questioned who would protect them. Josephine Li, a sophomore at the school, lamented about her safety.
"There are school shootings everywhere, and they took the one armed officer away from a school with 4,000 kids in it,” she said. “Who is there to protect [us]?"