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Sen. Jim Seward

State Sen. Jim Seward. 

I am strongly in favor of any effective measure that will enhance school safety and protect our children, particularly in the face of the recent surge in school violence and threats. That’s why I have joined with my senate colleagues to adopt a comprehensive package of critical school safety bills that will help keep our kids safe.

The wide-ranging plan includes real solutions that can be achieved quickly and will help return peace of mind to students, parents, and teachers.

The bills passed by the senate increase the ability of schools to hire qualified security personnel; create new state funding mechanisms for infrastructure investments that improve school safety; increase access to school-based mental health services; expand state actions and intelligence coordination to protect schools against attack; and strengthen penalties for crimes on school grounds.

Improving security systems, helping schools hire well-trained security personnel, and making certain that individuals who need mental health care can easily access these vital services are significant steps that together, will ultimately save lives.

Let me be clear – this is not the end of the discussion. There is more work to be done and moving forward, I will pursue additional commonsense measures that get to the heart of the issue and will protect all citizens from illegal gun violence.

Further, it is important to note there are significant differences between New York’s laws and federal regulations.

New York State already has some of the most stringent gun ownership laws in the nation. The sale of semi-automatic firearms with military characteristics is banned, the sale or possession of magazines capable of holding more than ten rounds is banned, and all firearm sales or transfers require background checks (excepting close family members). Also, automatic weapons have been illegal in America since the 1930s.

Here are details of a few of the school safety bills that were just passed by the senate. The complete package can be found on my website, www.seward.nysenate.gov.

Create a School Resource Officers Education Aid Program and Grant Availability: S7811A and S7810A, these new bills define the term “school resource officer” to include a retired police officer, retired deputy sheriff, or retired state trooper, or an active duty police officer, deputy sheriff, or state trooper. School districts throughout the state except New York City would be authorized to receive state funding to hire a school resource officer (SRO) or contract with the state, a county, city, town, or village for their services. The officers would be charged with providing improved public safety and/or security on school grounds and be authorized to carry and possess firearms during the course of their duties if licensed to do so.

Create a New Mental Health Services Coordinator Aid Program and Grants: S7805, this new bill establishes a Mental Health Services Program Coordinator Education Aid Program for the state to reimburse school districts outside the city of New York. Schools would be eligible for $50,000 in state funding for the hiring of a mental health services coordinator. The coordinator will work with students, faculty, and other mental health and health care professionals to identify, report, and address mental health issues that could pose a risk to public safety in any public or non-public school.

Security Hardware Aid Program: S7790, this new bill would provide state education aid to school districts for acquiring safety technology and improving security of their facilities.

Protect School Communities From Violent Threats: S2521, this bill expands the existing laws in place to prevent school bomb threats so that other types of threats can be prosecuted as well. Under current law, an individual who threatens a fire, explosion, or release of a hazardous substance on school grounds is guilty of a class D felony of falsely reporting an incident in the first degree. This measure would expand the law to include threats of mass violence with any implement.

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