ToquiNotes: BHS Principal DeFazio Provides an Angry Two Cents on Ongoing School Criminal Incidents

By Jeff Toquinto on March 03, 2018 from ToquiNotes via Connect-Bridgeport.com

It wasn’t an unusual Monday recently at Bridgeport High School with one exception – and even that is something that happens on an annual basis. What was unique is what transpired after what occasionally happens caught Principal Mark DeFazio off guard and left him dismayed at how things have progressed.
 
“I didn’t think anything of the power being off other than to go through our normal protocols. I was kind of taken aback when three young ladies who are students approached me,” said DeFazio. “They weren’t just concerned about the power being off, they were concerned because about their safety because of what happened in Florida.”
 
What happened in Florida occurred more than two weeks ago at Stoneman Douglas High School. A former student killed 17 people at the school in one of many school shootings and dangerous situations our nation has witnessed with increasing frequency.
 
“Seeing three kids approach me timid, scared and upset for that reason was troubling. Being in education for so long, I know kids are fragile, but that’s horribly frustrating as a principal to have a child tell you that,” said DeFazio. “For so much of my career and even when I was a student, a school was a sanctuary, a place to learn, to socialize and have nothing to worry about.
 
“Those days where for eight hours a day kids knew just about certainly they were safe at school is over,” he continued. “It’s just a sad, sad situation. How did we get to this point?”
 
DeFazio said as an administrator he’s responsible for many things. Safety is definitely one of them, he said and he said every time there’s an incident he automatically thinks of his own school.
 
“The community in Florida is comparable to ours, although they have 3,000 kids,” DeFazio said. “The demographics are very similar otherwise and the thing is it happens everywhere so you can’t say it won’t happen here.”
 
DeFazio said the school does prepare. He said administrators, faculty, staff and Prevention Resource Officer Jamie Hamrick of the Bridgeport Police Department do drills to try and be ready if the worst occurs.
 
“People do ask if we’re prepared and that’s something I would ask, too, if I were a parent of a child here,” said DeFazio. “You can practice and prepare, but you don’t know how anyone is going to react. You just never know that. No matter what you do to try to lock things down to prevent, there’s always someone that can find a way around. That’s not meant to scare anyone. It’s reality.”
 
Bridgeport is like many schools in Harrison County. They have a PRO in Hamrick. They have secured doors and do drills with codes to try and stay sharp. There are surveillance cameras throughout the school that can be viewed in the main office and on the computers of administrators.
 
“I’m sure people don’t want to hear this, but if someone wants to get into your school and do harm to others they’re going to do it. It’s that simple. I don’t care how much security you have because someone will be smart enough to figure it out,” said DeFazio. “I think our students realize that, as well, which is why I am certain I had those three young ladies approach me during the power outage.”
 
Hamrick, like DeFazio, said the recent incident went to the forefront of her mind immediately. She said what she does daily means it’s always going to happen.
 
“They were few and far between for the longest time, but I also remember that Columbine happened before I got here,” said Hamrick, who has been the PRO for 13 years. “It’s not new, but it’s happening with more frequency.”
 
Hamrick is asking the community to stay vigilant, whether it’s here in Bridgeport or elsewhere. Anything suspicious, or something that looks peculiar, should be reported.
 
“We had someone recently walk in front of the school on the sidewalk directly in front of the school as opposed to the main sidewalk by Johnson and that was reported to me,” she said. “It turned out to be nothing, but that’s what needs to happen. Just (two weeks) ago, teachers at Simpson saw someone with a backpack walking through yards near there and reported it. Again, it turned out be nothing, but that’s what you need.”
 
One thing you don’t need, said DeFazio – and I couldn’t agree more – is that politics should never come into play when a situation like the Florida shootings takes place. He said he also knows that’s impossible today where everything is politicized.
 
“If you’re doing what’s right and best for the kids you need to keep politics out of it, but that’s not life as we know it anymore. The more you see it being politicized instead of trying to work things out, the angrier I get,” said DeFazio. “I’ll be the first to tell you I don’t have the answers, but I think I’m with a lot of people that will say that even though it’s not an easy fix we need to fix it. We’re talking about children here. What’s so hard to understand that people that can make a difference can’t talk about it and do what’s right? The whole scenario is a shame.”
 
Hamrick, who not only works in the Bridgeport school system but is a product of it and a lifelong resident, concurred with much of what DeFazio said. She also believes it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that much that’s taking place if it involves younger people is a result of changes in technology that impact the overall way we live.
 
“There’s a culture change from (when I was in school) to now … You have an entire generation of kids dependent on the internet and social media; they want instant feedback and it’s part of the everybody gets a trophy mentality,” said Hamrick. “I just don’t think that mindset of instant gratification and something for nothing helps kids learn about responsibility and setbacks. I don’t know if that’s the problem, but for my two cents it’s not helping anything. I do know doing nothing isn’t the answer. What the answer is something that people should be looking for right now.”
 
The question is will that happen? In today’s political landscape I don’t have much faith. Sadly, I have more faith you’ll see another shooting take place before anyone can sit down and try to fix what’s broken.
 
You would think our children are worth that.
 
Editor's Note: Top photo shows Mark DeFazio operating the secure door to the main entrance to the school, while in the second photo DeFazio, far right, is joined by Assistant Principals Matt DeMotto and Renee Mathews in looking the school's surveillance system. Bottom photo is of PRO Jamie Hamrick. 


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