New Security at Berkeley Carroll: Interviews with Mr. Vitalo and Mr. Clarke


Moya Linsey and Gabby Guarna

You’ve probably noticed the new main doors at 181 Lincoln Place. These doors have been the cause of many rumors about new security measures at Berkeley Carroll. In order to get to the root of these rumors, we sat down with Mr. Vitalo and Mr. Clarke. We discovered that many of these rumors are true, while others were debunked.

When asked about the cause of these security measures, both Mr. Vitalo and Mr. Clarke stated that the changes are not from threats, but merely to reassure everybody and increase the level of security. After a couple of national incidents in the fall, the urgency to install these security procedures heightened. The attack on the West Side Highway in October and the attempted school shooting in Northern California in November helped the administration realize that we needed these new security measures as soon as possible. Additionally, because 181 Lincoln is both the busiest and the only Berkeley Carroll location without controlled access, these security changes will help to get a better handle on delivery and service people, visitors, and even students entering and exiting the building.

The first of these new security measures are the doors at Lincoln Place. Many students and teachers have noticed the large, black doors upon entering the school building, and have remarked on their striking similarity to prison doors. However, Mr. Clarke stated that “he wants to make sure that school doesn’t feel like a maximum security prison,” and he’s confident that students will eventually adjust. Despite some criticism regarding the doors, they are necessary, as the previous doors did not lock, which posed a security risk.     

This summer, the school administration is planning to install even more security measures. There will be a renovation of the lobby, and the security desk will be reoriented to face the door. Additionally, both the admissions area and the entryway will be expanded to accommodate visitors. More cameras will be added to observe the entire school, especially in the Beta Lab, which is currently relatively devoid of security. The administration is also striving to implement a swipe or buzz-in system as soon as possible, hopefully by the time students return from summer break. According to Mr. Clarke, such a system will be “effective and easy to use without undermining the sense of community.”

Many Berkeley Carroll community members are also concerned about the glass classrooms on the second and third floors of 181 Lincoln Place. Some students have gone so far as to say that the glass is bulletproof. Both Mr. Clarke and Mr. Vitalo quickly discredited that rumor. However, they did say that the glass is a higher grade because of the fire rating in the school. Mr. Clarke and Mr. Vitalo both seemed entirely unconcerned by the glass classrooms and said that in the small chance that an event does occur, it won’t travel to the upper floors.

Mr. Vitalo and Mr. Clarke both remained sure that no active shooter situation will ever occur at Berkeley Carroll, for there has never been a shooting in a school in New York City. Other mitigating factors include our urban environment, which allows for rapid responses, as compared to rural or suburban schools. Most importantly, however, the shooters are very often identified as having mental health problems and attended large schools, where their mental illness is frequently overlooked. In such a tight-knit community like Berkeley Carroll, Mr. Clarke and Mr. Vitalo, along with the rest of the administration, have the utmost confidence in the school’s ability to prevent any potential problems long before anything happens. In many ways, Berkeley Carroll’s sense of camaraderie and community is its best defense mechanism.

While the administration is busy working on getting the school as safe as it can be, the students have been anything but quiet in the light of the recent school shootings. Emulating what the brave students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School began, some empowered Berkeley Carroll students took charge and organized school walkouts to stand in solidarity with thousands of students across the country fighting for gun control laws. “I believe that a large part of being a critical, ethical, global, thinker is being engaged in social justice,” says Mosab H. ‘19, who helped plan the March 14th school walkout. “I think that BC engaging in social justice activism is important to upholding the motto in its students, truly creating socially aware, and thus productive members of society.” He also found it important to specify the difference between social justice and politics. “Social justice is justice for those who have been wronged in a societal context (ie. victims of gun violence). While one’s opinions on social justice may be politicized, striving for social justice isn’t inherently political.” This, he says, is why he felt it was so important that he, along with Natalie S. ‘19 and Hannah S.‘19, organized something that all BC students could be a part of if they felt this issue was important.

This walkout on March 14th was also followed by an even larger walkout on April 20th, marking the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting. “The school was… very supportive in our efforts,” Mosab said. This sentiment was reiterated by Mr. Vitalo and Mr. Clarke. Both said they were impressed and supportive of the students initiative, but also wanted to keep safety in mind and make sure everyone felt safe and comfortable. Mr. Vitalo also added that he sees these walkouts as more of a planned memorial service for the victims of the recent school shootings, and wants to make sure all students who want to go are able to participate.

Throughout the conversations with both Mr. Vitalo and Mr. Clarke, both kept stressing that these new measures are solely for the benefit of the students so that we can all feel safe and comfortable. While they both said that they haven’t received or noticed anything that would be a threat, they know that security is something on people’s minds right now. They want to ensure that education is the main thing on students’ minds, not the possibility of an intruder or shooter situation. In addition, they both agreed that they believe in Berkeley Carroll as a community to take care of the mental health and well being of all their students, and though these new security measures may be bringing more attention to the issue than there was previously, the purpose is to make sure that our safe and happy learning environment stays safe and happy for many more years to come.