By Mark Hallum
A hearing regarding a proposal from City Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) took place at City Hall Tuesday, where local leaders weighed the pros and cons of establishing what he calls a School Emergency Preparedness Task Force, which was designed to prevent school shootings.
The joint meeting between the Committees on Public Safety and Education brought the package of bills to the next stage of the legislative process after city Dept. of Education officials voiced their support for the proposal, unveiled by Vallone in June.
Per the legislation, the School Safety Task Force would meet once a quarter. After deliberating on where improvements could be made, they would then pass their recommendations — formed from the input of parents and staff — to the mayor’s office and the City Council speaker every year.
“In light of the ongoing and recent school tragedies around our country, and the indisputable fact that New York City will forever have to be more prepared than any other municipality, now is the time to take a top to bottom look at our school emergency preparedness,” Vallone said. “There can be no debate, the safety of our children must be our top priority.”
Under the legislation, schools would file an emergency safety plan with their local precincts and implement shooter safety training to faculty, provide principals at more than 1,700 schools in the city with the resources to prevent violence as well as provide surveillance systems to the 1,123 city schools that are still lacking.
“At today’s hearing, I heard a lot about what we are already doing for school safety, but not a lot about what more we could do, or how to do it better. I have an issue with that,” said Vallone. “When we are asked if everything has been done at a child’s school to make them as safe as possible, we better be sure that the answer is yes. With support from the DOE, NYPD and my fellow council members, this legislative package will move forward. What we do next to improve the safety, resources and opportunities for our students will define our city and the legacy we leave for our kids.”
The package of 12 bills is now slated to go before the Public Safety and Education Committees for a final vote, before going to a floor in City Council.
“We support the goals of the proposed legislation,” LaShawn Robinson, the deputy chancellor for School Climate and Wellness at the DOE, said. “We share the Council’s commitment to ensure that our children are safe at school and we commend the Council for its leadership on this issue.”
City Council members Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) and Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) signed onto the bills, which have also gained the approval of state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall