A package of 12 bills to bolster school safety in the city is gaining traction at the state level with a rally attended by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli on Bell Boulevard Monday.
The legislation, drafted by City Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside), will establish a School Safety Task Force which would meet once a quarter. After deliberations, they would then pass on their recommendations, formed from the input of parents and staff, to the mayor’s office and the City Council speaker every year.
“What can we do to make sure that we provide the best environment, the best schools and the safest for our children?” Vallone asked. “What the parents deserve to know is that their school has been looked at from top to bottom. That [there is] access into and out of the school... do we have active cameras? Is there an intercom system?... all of that is within our power to do and that’s what’s going to be very different between us as a city and the rest of the country.”
Schools would file an emergency safety plan with their local precincts, implement shooter safety training to faculty, provide principals at the more than 1,700 schools in the city with the resources to prevent violence and provide surveillance systems to the 1,123 city schools that still lacking.
Vallone said principals should also be allowed to lock the doors of facilities.
“We’ve all been heartbroken by the tragedies we’ve seen across this great country and it calls out for a response,” DiNapoli said. “If we’re going to get any real traction on the issue of dealing with the school safety and gun violence and the impact it’s having in school settings, it’s going to be because of what the young people are calling for... We’re going to have a series of audits of the state [Dept. of Education] and [NYC DOE] to make sure the appropriate procedures are being followed.”
Compliance with a law passed in 2000 called the Save Act, which requires schools to have comprehensive safety plans for multiple situations, will be at the center of the comptroller’s audit.
Students from surrounding schools attended the rally along with teachers and parents and held signs that read “We need the School Safety Task Force,” and “Cameras for every school.”
Although $100 million has been included in the Department of Education’s five-year capital plan for the upkeep of surveillance systems, Vallone called for an additional $100 million for new equipment which was not adopted in the mayor’s executive budget scheduled for passage in the coming days.
City Council members Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) and Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) signed onto the bills, calling for the task force to examine evacuation plans and emergency response protocols at city schools, according to Vallone’s office.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall