A community’s fight to bring a beloved school security guard back was on display on the frigid morning of Friday, January 23, as, outside P.S. 229, dozens of parents and children held a rally to support Kevin Rodgers, who had been working as a security guard at the Bensonhurst school since 1989.
Rodgers was recently transferred to another Brooklyn school, leaving parents and students upset and determined to bring him back.
Starting at 7:30 a.m., the spirited kids and parents held signs and circled the building, chanting “We want Mr. Rodgers Back!”
Community activist and rally organizer Sonia Valentin discussed what Rodgers has meant to the school over the decades. “For the school, he meant safety, responsibility, love, professionalism and a sense that everything would be fine when he was around,” she said.
Parents were quick to share stories about Rodgers. “We all felt safe with him around,” added Judy Tsevdos. “He told me personally that he would take a bullet for any of these kids. Ever since all these school shootings, Rodgers is the only one who made us all feel comfortable. He was like family to the parents and the kids. From what I was told, the teachers miss him too.”
Although NYPD officers present declined to be interviewed, Deputy Inspector John Lewis and Deputy Director Lyndsey Martinez did attend the rally to answer the questions the concerned parents had regarding Rodgers’ absence.
“(Rodgers) was spoken to about protocol by various superiors and personnel and he still refused to conform to NYPD and DOE Chancellor’s Regulations,” said Martinez. “These are DOE procedures with regards to IDs, signing in and protocols about other people remaining at the front desk which we enforce as school safety agents.”
“Our agents go above and beyond many times, but we feel it’s more important that we’re about to make sure our agents comply with department regulations,” added Lewis. “It’s very important that you maintain regulations because once you start to let them slip and slide, it can become a problem. We’ll take your concerns into consideration and we don’t want to remove someone that is in charge but we need to make sure we accomplish department guidelines and goals.”
“I was impressed and amazed that they came and addressed the issues of the parents,” said Valentin. “They didn’t delve into specific issues but the fact that the powers-that-be showed up is indicative that they care about what we have to say.”
Others were upset with the explanations given. “I understand that procedure is important but common sense is important too. He knows every kid by name and face,” said father Billy Tsevdos.
“I’ve known him for seven years and when I first started coming here, I always had to give ID,” added Kim Jallet. “But if he saw anyone that wasn’t a parent, there was no way he would let you in without identification.”
According to parents, the ones most affected by this change are the students “The kids really miss him. They’re perplexed,” said Valentin. “They know that he’s gone but they don’t know why and at this age you can’t really explain to them why.”
“I told my daughter, who is a first grader, today and she was so upset. She said ‘I want him to come back,’” added Ewelina Niginska.
A PTA meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, January 27 at 7 p.m. to discuss the guard’s transfer.
“I think it’s great how we all came together and how everyone was here to support Rodgers and trying to bring him back,” said Valentin. “Will it work? I don’t know. But we’ll fight until the end.”