NBC reporters gain access to some schools with ease, exposing security gaps
By Robert Powell and Avni Patel NBC News
reporters were able to access school buildings and walk around at
several New York-area schools, two NBC investigations have found,
raising questions about school security as the anniversary of the
massacre in Newtown, Conn. approaches.
Today Show National Investigative Correspondent Jeff Rossen was able to
enter one New Jersey school without giving a name. Unescorted, he went
looking for the main office, per school policy. As he looked, he walked
past several classrooms with kids, stopping at one to ask a teacher for
directions. No one asked who he was, or what he was doing there. For two
minutes, he walked through the halls, and was only stopped once he
arrived at the office.
The school's PTA told NBC the findings were a "wake-up" call.
is incredibly problematic," said safety consultant Sal Lifrieri, a
former director of security at the New York City Office of Emergency
Management, after watching the video. "Something like this, two minutes
of not being challenged, it's just too much harm you could have caused
if you really had intent,"
At the other four schools he visited, however, he was asked for identification and kept away from children and classrooms.
was buzzed in after identifying himself at one school, and was escorted
straight to the principal's office. At another, a guard intercepted him
outside the building and asked for identification.
But in New
York City, Jonathan Vigliotti of WNBC was able to walk in to seven out
of 10 schools without being challenged. "I had a harder time getting
into my friend's apartment building," said Vigliotti.
school he was able to bypass the metal detector, roam the hallways, and
enter a gym full of kids. Approached later, the guard at the metal
detector was surprised to learn Vigliotti hadn't signed in. "Wow," said
the guard. "I thought you were a teacher."
The New York City Police Department, which trains public school guards, said it would investigate after it was contacted by NBC.
The city's school chancellor watched the incident on video, and said more training was needed.
Chancellor Dennis Walcott, "When we have probably around 135,000 staff
that works with us, we are going to have issues where some people need
to be trained and trained better. And some people that don't need to be
in the system."
While school safety experts say many schools
have taken steps to increase building security by installing buzzer and
intercom systems, surveillance cameras, and alarms on doors and
entrances, security gaps still remain.
"It's not just a matter of
putting in technology," said Michael Dorn, executive director of Safe
Havens International, a non-profit organization that conducts safety
assessments for school districts across the country. "Where we're often
running into problems is with training."