As state budget negotiations continue, Assemblyman Christopher S. Friend (R,C-Big Flats) is fighting for funding for several safety measures to address school safety. The assemblyman and his colleagues unveiled several recommendations from a report written after the conclusion of the Assembly Minority Task Force on School Safety and Security.
“My colleagues and I have been working on a set of solutions to help secure our schools. After talking with parents, teachers and school administrators in my district, it is clear their concerns over school safety have only increased, yet the state hasn’t done enough to give them the tools to enhance the security of schools,” said Friend. “Ensuring school safety is going to take a multipronged approach and we have laid out several steps we can take now as part of the budget to improve safety at our schools.”
Several actionable items were recommended by the Task Force on School Safety and Security and could be implemented with appropriate funding and adjustments to the law:
- Increase law enforcement presence in schools with a statewide school resource officer training and certificate program and a statewide School Safety Agent program similar to the existing program in New York City;
- Address mental health issues in schools by adjusting qualifications for those looking to obtain social work degrees and certifications; provide financial incentives for mental health professionals, school psychologists and social workers specializing in child development; and explore utilizing youth apprenticeship programs to provide early exposure to these kinds of professions;
- Allow open communication between emergency first responders so they may report serious mental health issues to the County Director of Community Services for those who need immediate care or hospital treatment;
- Innovate state support for school safety by creating the New York State Division of School Safety and Security to inventory existing school safety resources and expand Statewide Emergency Response Plan requirements;
- Identify threats and provide support to at-risk students by empowering schools to establish anonymous tip lines, require reporting of bullying and harassment to parents or guardians, and prohibit elementary and secondary schools from being used as polling sites; and
- Provide funding for school infrastructure for security by increasing Capital Outlay Program funds to $225,000 and increase Building Aid for school safety projects to 15 percent.
Friend is also interested in the state exploring the use of innovative technology in schools to identify potential threats. There are technologies that use artificial intelligence to scan security video to flag for the potential carrying of weapons and automatically alert law enforcement. The assemblyman wants to ensure all options are available to schools to protect students.