Campus trespasser forces administration to rethink security protocols


Logan Schiciano/Tower

On Feb. 24, a trespasser entered buildings on the Masters campus, taking a laptop and a hat. During Covid, the administration relaxed security measures. Since the trespassing, administration has revised security procedures to keep the campus more safe.

Kira Ratan, Features Lead Editor

An unknown individual trespassed onto Masters’ campus on Wednesday afternoon, entering two buildings and stealing a laptop from a middle school classroom and a hat from an office. Head of School Laura Danforth notified parents and faculty of the incident and the subsequent changes in security protocol in response to the breach in an email sent on Thursday, Feb. 25.

In the email, Danforth said, “[The trespasser’s] successful entry into two of our buildings is a reminder to all of us that we can never become complacent in adhering to and strengthening our policies designed to protect the safety of our community.”

Danforth’s statement referred to the school’s decision to leave doors unlocked––one of the security protocols which had been relaxed in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

On Feb. 26, Masters reinstated its previous security policies. All entrances to buildings will be locked, and a school ID will be required in order to enter. In addition, the administration asked that all employees and students begin to have their school IDs visible, and any visitor must sign in at either the upper or middle school reception desks.

Masters’ security team called the Dobbs Ferry Police Department about the incident, who told the team that the individual responsible has a history of trespassing on school campuses. An official investigation is underway, although the police department declined to comment on any specifics.

According to Head of Security Victor Seguinot, the decision to keep building entrances unlocked was made by the operations team and upper administration, not security directly. The administration’s initial plan was to keep the doors propped open in order to avoid as little contact with the handle and other surfaces as possible, but as the weather grew colder, Seguinot said that trying to keep doors fully open proved ineffective and inefficient. So, the doors were closed but remained unlocked.

Seguinot said that although he believes preventing community spread of COVID-19 should be the school’s number one priority, the absence of key card surveillance had complicated his team’s responsibilities.

“It was a little difficult because by having the ability to track scanned key cards, we could always see who was going in and out of buildings. We had to begin being more proactive to make sure that kids were showing their Covid screening, and that there were familiar faces coming through the door,” he said.

Seguinot said that at the start of the year, handling Covid at school was new to everybody, and the school had no choice but to find different ways to follow guidelines put in place for safety. Now, he’s glad the school’s security protocols are back to the normal pace they should have been at.

It was so unexpected.

— Jocelyn Acevedo '23

“Adhering to COVID-19 safety protocols should never interfere with campus safety and security. It was unfortunate, but we’re lucky it only took that.”

Senior and dedicated gun-violence reform activist Sam New, who said she’s well-versed in the school’s security protocols, was one of the first people to voice their concern about the security changes made this year.

I understand the administration’s decision to keep the doors open because it minimizes the risk of spreading germs, but for me, being in a pandemic is even more of a reason for people to lash out, which means safety measures should reflect that,” she said.

After the incident, New spoke out on social media about how her efforts to bring attention to these issues had gone largely unnoticed before this occurred. She said she believes that while Masters is certainly not the only institution to change its security policies only after a dangerous event, people may not understand the gravity of the situation and its effect on the community. 

“I’m glad that it was only a robbery, and not something much more dangerous. With that said, I don’t have a lot of hope that students and teachers are going to become more enthusiastic about keeping our school safe, anyways,” she said.

When sophomore boarding student Jocelyn Acevedo returned to live on campus after nearly one year away, she said she didn’t realize school buildings were unlocked and thought the coincidence was just random. Although the building entrances had been left unlocked, all dorm entrances were locked and still required key card access. She thought that the possibility of outside danger wasn’t even the main reason for keeping the dorms locked this year. 

“Honestly, I thought we needed a key card to get into the dorms to stop day students and other boarders from sneaking into other people’s dorms since we aren’t allowed to go anymore,” Acevedo said.

Looking back now after the robbery, Acevedo hadn’t even thought about the possibility of an intruder and is glad the school is reinstating its protocols. However, she thinks the new policy of having your ID visible at all times is unnecessary.

“It was so unexpected. I think it was smart of them to lock the buildings again, but I don’t know why we have to wear our IDs around our necks; who’s going to mistake a grown man trying to steal something for a student trying to go to class,” Acevedo said. 

Acevedo’s concerns seem to be similar to many students on campus, who agree with the school’s decision to reinstate its previous policies but disagree with the new requirement. In an email sent on March 1, Head of Upper School Peter Newcomb reminded students about the new policy, emphasizing that there will be strict enforcement of it for the foreseeable future. 

New said, “We just can’t know until it’s too late.”