Ortt wants police officers in all school buildings, more mental health services for students
The safety and security of children and students must always remain a priority in New York. While recent events of pure evil and violence have rattled our state and nation, the need to address the root cause of the problem is more urgent than ever.
I recently held several meetings with school superintendents, school board members, teachers, and parents from throughout the 62nd Senate District regarding school safety. We discussed the need for state funding of School Resource Officers (SROs) in every school building, implementing technology that would safeguard students, faculty, and staff, and improving the availability of mental health services to students at all levels of schooling.
When asking the schools in my district if a full-time SRO is wanted by parents, teachers, and administrators, the resounding answer is: “of course.” Unfortunately, paying for these officers has proven to be a challenge for some of the smaller and more rural schools in my district. My colleagues in the Legislature need to understand that when safety policies are passed, we need to provide proper funding. New York needs school safety equity: no school should have to go without an SRO.
Another hurdle faced by our schools is the lack of a timely approval process by New York State for school hardening plans. There is no excuse for districts to be waiting several months, or more, to get state approval. Each day that passes before a safety project is signed off is another day that our children could be at risk. To ensure that technologies and other important improvements are implemented quickly, there must be a more streamlined and efficient process.
Last, but not least, our schools are faced with a severe lack of adequate mental health services, both in and out of the classroom. The past two years have taken a mental toll on students. Due to current law, school psychologists who see patients in school are unable to meet with these same students outside of the building’s walls.
Because of this stipulation, not only is there a lack of in-school psychologists available, but parents are now forced to seek outside help for any additional services. We must increase the number of professionals entering the pediatric psychology field by removing this roadblock. By passing legislation that allows school psychologists to help our students both in and out of the classroom, we will be able to provide the care and support they need.
Efforts to increase school safety must remain a priority in the state Legislature. My colleagues and I recently introduced the “Safer NY Plan,” an extensive legislative package equipped to prevent targeted violence against New Yorkers. The package involves re-investing in the mental health system, deterring and fighting violent crime, supporting communities with violence prevention Task Forces, and more.
All New Yorkers must be safe from violence, and as legislative officials, we must do everything in our power to prevent further tragedies. Our Conference is committed and stands ready to enact real solutions to protect our school children.
State Sen. Robert Ortt
(Ortt represents the 62nd Senate District which includes all of Niagara County, all of Orleans County, and the towns of Sweden and Ogden in Monroe County.)