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Freeport School News
December 2002

 
December 13, 2002 (Posted Dec 17)

Freeport Students Speak Up About Gangs
Freeport's Bosses Clam Up

by Stewart S Lilker


Andre Akamine and his crew refused to be intimidated by the Freeport School administration and interviewed high school students about the gang problems in the high school.

Hofstra Journalism student, Andre Akamine was ignorant about the gang problem in the Freeport schools until he came across the FreeportNYNews story, Freeport Superintendent In Ozone A "Sign of the Times," a story about the gang problems in Freeport's schools.

Akamine was inspired enough to investigate the story himself, after, according to Akamine, he was told that neither Freeport's School Superintendent Eversley, nor Freeport's Chief of Police, Mike Woodward would speak to him. Akamine told FreeportNYNews (FNYN), "Nobody would talk to me, so I decided to come to Freeport and interview the kids."

On Friday afternoon, December 13, Akamine and his crew of two grabbed a video camera and arrived across the street from the front of Freeport High School.

Akamine said that as soon as the camera was set up and they began interviewing he was set upon by two members of the school administration, who a student identified as Assistant Principal Gallo and Dean Elan. According to one of the students, it was Dean Elan who asked Akamine, "Hey, you guys got permits for this?"

Akamine said he told the two administrators he was on the street, which is a public place and he didn't need permits. Gesturing to two students he said, "These two kids were going to talk to me and she [Gallo] said, "'Oh, you two guys, you can talk to him, but I would really appreciate if you wouldn't.'" Akamine asked your reporter, "What is wrong with this place?"

To diffuse the situation, Akamine moved down the street from the front of the school. When FNYN arrived on the scene, Assistant Superintendent Joshua Starr was with the Hofstra crew and a bunch of students. As your reporter approached, Starr took off back into the school.

Your reporter asked Akamine what Starr had to say. Akamine said, waving a copy of the FNYN story, "Starr said we were doing a bull sh_t piece and told us to look at our sources."

Akamine then began interviewing some of the students that had gathered around the Hofstra crew.

Akamine asked if there were gangs in the school and if there was gang violence.

A female student answered, "Yeah, everybody knows about it."

When your reporter asked the students how many gangs were in the school the answers came fast and furious. "There is a lot of them." "There is one gang that is the problem. They are from El Salvador. The MS 13." "At Halloween, they shot at my friend."

Freeport's secretive Mayor, William F. Glacken has said that the gang situation in Freeport is no different than it is in Garden City or Great Neck, a remark which has been seconded by his Deputy Mayor, Renier Frierson, Nassau County's former Commissioner of Human Rights.

Your reporter followed up, "Do you think there is a gang problem in the school?"

The group responded without hesitation, "Yeah, there is." "The cops are not doing anything about Maja [MS 13]."

Your reporter asked, "Are the police in the school a lot?"

One of the girls responded, "Not really, but they are always trying to break up something. They are usually on the block, though, like after school."

One of the male students chimed in. "There was a big fight in the cafeteria fourth period," explaining that he thought three gangs were involved.

Your reporter pointed to two Freeport Police cars parked directly in front of the entrance to the school, asking, "Are they here every day?"

All the students agreed that the police cars were there every day.

One of the boys said, "I feel safe in Freeport High School. I stay around my good friends and that's how it is."

Another boy said, "They have cameras everywhere. It's an invasion of privacy."

One of the girls said about the safety in the school, "It's not that safe. They have cameras all over the school. When they do bag checks, they don't even search through your stuff."

Another girl volunteered, "The MS13. The teachers, the police. They're all scared of them."

A different girl, "I live in a building where all of them are there every day and the cops will be there and they won't do anything."

All the students thought that the new principal, Mike Courtney, Freeport High School's fourth principal in five years, was a good principal and was trying his best "to do good for this school." A student said, "I heard there's a lot of people being expelled."

After the Hofstra crew packed up, your reporter talked with both Akamine and Assistant Superintendent Starr by phone.

Akamine told your reporter that Starr had told him, "You are trying to do a sensational story with facts you cannot prove."

All the statistics in the FNYN story, Freeport Superintendent In Ozone A "Sign of the Times," were quoted from the statistics used by the district in their Magnet School Grant Application.


Newly hired Assistant Superintendent, Joshua Starr, has been the only publicly candid district official since Supt. Eversley took the helm of  the district eighteen months ago.

At 3 p.m. your reporter had a brief conversation with Asst. Supt. Starr, who, considering the wall of silence that District Superintendent Eversley and the School Board have built, was polite and surprisingly candid,.

Your reporter asked Starr, "Have you read the Magnet Grant and do you think the gang related numbers in the report are accurate?"

Starr answered, "Not having read the report, I wouldn't know."

Your reporter followed up, "What did you tell the Hofstra reporter when he was trying to interview the students?"

Starr said, "I told him he needs to get balanced sources for his material."

Your reporter asked, "Do you think the numbers in the Magnet School Grant Application were boosted on the application?"

Starr replied, "I wouldn't imagine that the numbers were embellished."

In a conversation with Police Chief Woodward held before Freeport's Superintendent In the Ozone was published, your reporter asked Woodward about the gang statistics in the grant application.

"Chief, do you believe those numbers were accurate?"

Woodward replied, "We never gave them those numbers."

Your reporter asked, "Do you know where they got them?"

Woodward responded, "I have no idea. I know they didn't come from me."

Earlier in the afternoon, Akamine asked the students, "The administration says the problem is not that bad. Do you think the problem is not that bad?"

One of the girls went right to the heart of the matter, "The thing is us kids have to deal with them more than the adults. If they say there is not a problem, that's because they are not in the middle of it. They are not walking home from school and having to have to run because Maja comes after us with guns."

 

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