Assemblyman Scott Gray (R-Watertown) joined his Assembly Minority colleagues for a press conference on Thursday to share the findings from the Minority Conference Task Force on School Safety & Security. The group of legislators toured the state and held five public forums to gather input from law enforcement, education professionals, mental health professionals, parents and members of the public. The report comes as violence within schools continues to rise across the country. The full report can be viewed here.
Main points from the final report include:
- Increasing Law Enforcement Presence in Schools
- Create a statewide SRO Training and Certification Program (similar to A.9432 of 2022; Byrnes) and require annual recertification.
- Create a statewide School Safety Agent program modeled after the existing NYC Program.
- Addressing the salary cap impediment placed on public retirees, this legislation would remove barriers and help school districts retain experienced individuals (A.2023/Hawley).
- Addressing Mental Health Issues in Schools
- Ease qualification restrictions for those looking to receive social work degrees or certifications.
- Provide financial incentives for mental health professionals, school psychologists and social workers who specialize in child development.
- Explore utilizing youth apprenticeship programs and early career pathways to provide early exposure and credited training to those interested in these vital careers.
- Open Communication Between Stakeholders
- Amend section 9.45 of the Mental Hygiene Law to authorize emergency first responders to report to the County Director of Community Services that an individual has a serious mental health issue that necessitates immediate care/treatment in a hospital.
- Innovative State Support for School Safety and Security
- Create the New York State Division of School Safety and Security and task it with identifying existing school safety resources and creating a centralized clearinghouse of information.
- Expand requirements of Statewide Emergency Response Plans.
- Amend “Raise The Age” laws that have made it difficult to hold students accountable for their actions, pass A.3167; Reilly to permit an adolescent offender who possesses a loaded firearm to be tried in the Youth Part of Criminal Court
- Identifying Threats and Providing Support to At-Risk Students
- Empower and encourage school districts to establish or utilize anonymous tip-line services so that students and community members can confidentially report threats concerning school safety and security.
- Enact Jacobe’s Law (A.2231; Walsh), which requires school administrators to contact parents when bullying or harassment has occurred.
- Enact A.4802 of 2022; Smith, which prohibits any elementary or secondary school from being used as a polling site for any election.
- Hardening Infrastructure at Schools
- Increase the threshold of projects eligible for funding from the Capital Outlay Program from $100,000 to $250,000.
- Increase the enhanced Building Aid incentive for school safety projects from 10% to 15%.
“All of us are looking for ways we can bolster school security and allow our children to receive an education free from violence,” said Gray. “I thank the task force for their hard work traversing the state and collecting feedback from various stakeholders. I urge the governor and my colleagues in the Majority Conference to meet with us on these proposals, along with my ‘anti-swatting’ proposal so we can bring about meaningful change. There are ways for us to better enforce the laws already on the books while also passing new common-sense legislation.”