jess wisloski
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Security sieve at high school - guards wink at banned items

BY JESS WISLOSKI

Tuesday, February 5th 2008 Security sieve at high school

A recent police lockdown at a Queens school has revealed a hole in security, with students routinely smuggling in banned items while guards turn a blind eye, according to students and parents.

The Jan. 17 lockdown at Hillcrest High School in Jamaica was initiated after administrators thought someone had brought a gun into the school. The report turned out to be bogus.

But as the scene unfolded, students who were locked outside said other forbidden items - including cell phones, iPods and Sidekicks - often were smuggled in.

"Some of the students probably got arrangements with the security guards and they don't have to get scanned," said a junior, 16, who asked that her name not be used. "I'm not just guessing. I know it's like that."

She and four other students claimed some students befriend, or even pay off, school safety officers to look the other way as they pass through the metal detectors.

"I ask them, 'Damn, how you get your own cell phone?' They say, 'I got a connection. I pay $1 a day with the security guard.'"

An NYPD spokesman said in a statement: "The School Safety Division has not received any allegations as described."

The junior said that rather than trying to smuggle in her cell phone, she instead pays a nearby shopkeeper $1 a day to watch it while she is in school.

In a phone interview, another 16-year-old student said four or five kids in each of her classes carry a cell phone.

Students take calls during class or play games on their phones if the teacher isn't watching, she added.

School safety officers, who work for the NYPD, are supposed to confiscate cell phones or iPods, which are prohibited in school by citywide policy.

Sneaking in a phone can cause disruptions in class, said Marge Feinberg, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, who added: "We want to provide students with the best educational atmosphere that we can."

Principal Steven Duch informed city officials of the allegations after attempts by the Daily News to seek comment from him, Feinberg said, noting that the case has been referred to investigators.

Parents, students and the teachers union have protested the cell phone ban.

"We feel a reasonable compromise could be reached," said Ron Davis, a spokesman for the United Federation of Teachers, which has called phones a "lifeline" for parents.

Kenya Williams, 32, showed up at the school on the day of the lockdown to meet her 16-year-old daughter, who had fearfully called from inside - on a friend's cell phone, she said.


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