By Mark Hallum
A legislative package in City Council, sponsored by various members from Queens, would create a task force to examine the best methods for preventing violence in schools which will be led by NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill if passed.
The School Security Task Force would meet once a quarter and pass its recommendations, formed from the input of parents and staff, to the mayor’s office and the City Council Speaker every year.
Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) introduced the proposed legislation May 9 that calls for a review of communication technology in schools, NYPD collaboration and safety protocols for students struggling with mental illness.
“As a result of our call for greater school security, we are proud that the Council is moving forward with this package of legislation that will take a hard look at the state of school security as it exists in every school, and what we can do to improve it,” said Vallone. “In the end, you can’t put a price tag on our children’s safety and I’m proud to introduce this important legislation with our speaker, Corey Johnson, and my colleagues.”
Councilmen Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) and Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) signed onto the bill, calling for the task force to examine evacuation plans and emergency response protocols at city schools, according to Vallone’s office.
The bill also requires the task force to review emergency protocols at non-public schools
The bills come following a call from Vallone and state Assemblyman Edward Braunstein (D-Braunstein) for the city Dept. of Education to allow schools to lock front doors during an emergency situation, which is against current practice, in response to the Feb 14 Parkland school shooting Florida which left 17 students and faculty dead.
Changes to policing in northeast Queens schools stirred concern from parents in March following the deadly shooting as the 111th Precinct switched to the Neighborhood Policing Program and reorganized its coverage of schools.
Francis Lewis High School’s PTA Co-president Linda Lovett claimed officers had been removed from schools while the 111th’s Officer John Erdman said the command had actually “been doing enhanced patrols at all of the schools in the precinct for the past three weeks [following the Florida shooting] as of yesterday have made 153 visits.”
A spokesman from Vallone’s office said although the bills have not gone to committee yet, they have the support from Johnson and should move swiftly.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall