NYC schools should have a ‘Security Task Force,’ Bayside lawmaker says

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Photo via Flickr/stevendepolo

A Bayside-based lawmaker is leading an effort to establish a special task force charged with improving safety protocols in the city’s schools.

On May 9, Councilman Paul Vallone, who represents areas of northeast Queens, introduced a bill that would establish a “School Security Task Force.” Chaired by the NYPD commissioner, the panel would be required to meet quarterly, assess school safety throughout the city and make recommendations for improvement.

The chancellor of the Department of Education (DOE) and the Director of the Office of Criminal Justice would also serve on the task force. The group would be required to seek input from at least one DOE teacher, employee and parent.

Vallone also introduced three additional bills which would require the task force to review emergency communication technologies at public schools, emergency preparedness at nonpublic schools and existing security presence. The task force would report its recommendations to the mayor and speaker of the City Council annually.

Each of the bills have been referred to the Council’s Committee on Public Safety.

Other bills introduced by City Council members include measures to assign the task force to review a public notification system for school emergencies, evacuation and emergency response protocols, and safety protocols for students experiencing mental health crises.

“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,” Vallone said. “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.”

A few separate safety threats — all found to be unsubstantiated — in Queens schools in recent months had some local parents calling for better communication from school administrators during times of confusion or distress.

On April 24, police were at P.S. 89 in Elmhurst investigating violent threat made against the school. A second scene unfolded at P.S./I.S. 119 in Glendale on April 26 when the school received a social media message about a bomb.

In March at Forest Hills High School, the school went into a lockdown in response to a threat to shoot up the school made by a student. It was later found to be a hoax.

The threats came in the weeks following the National School Walkout where, on March 14, hundreds of teenagers from two schools in Bayside joined students from around the country calling for gun reform.

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