Protecting our students – especially as recent tragedies have highlighted the need to review school safety protocols across the board – is absolutely critical. We need to take a long, hard look at ways to improve New York’s school safety procedures and laws.
Earlier this year, I joined my colleagues in the Assembly Minority Conference to call on the governor to create an emergency Temporary Commission on School Safety and Security.
This commission, which would have representatives from the Executive, Legislature, Court System, law enforcement and education community, would work toward standardizing school safety protocols and identifying necessary funding sources.
We believe this will provide an opportunity for a thorough, multi-faceted review of current legislation and will, through a collaborative approach, lead to safer, more secure school buildings. This is a conversation that needs to take place sooner, rather than later.
Assemblyman Robert Oaks has proposed legislation that would allow teachers to use doorstops or other devices to seal a classroom. Current law prohibits the practice, and represents a sensible fire-safety precaution. But it fails to address emergency circumstances when students may be in danger.
Other proposals that might help ensure students and teachers are safe while at school need to be discussed with a variety of stakeholders. As legislators continue to devise bills to protect our youngest New Yorkers, we remain hopeful Assemblyman Oaks’ proposal will be included in a much-needed comprehensive School Safety bill package.
Task forces and panels have been formed to address plastic bags, bee pollination and the salaries of legislators. But our request to look at school safety has gone ignored.
Governor Andrew Cuomo must move past political posturing and take immediate steps to empanel a school safety study group; it is far too sensitive a subject to be punted around like a political football.
As we approach the end of scheduled session, we must recognize the importance of moving forward with legislative solutions aimed at keeping New York children safe.
School is a place of learning, growth and building the social skills necessary to succeed. It must not be a place of anxiety, fear and distraction.
I call on Governor Cuomo, the legislature and all elected officials to take a hard look at how we can prevent tragedy from striking in New York and take immediate action toward that end.
Brian Kolb is the Minority Leader in the State Assembly.