In the wake of last month’s shooting in Newton, Conn., the focus of schools throughout Nassau County and New York state has shifted to student safety and to identifying at-risk students long before they become threats to their communities.
Many parents and school board members are asking two main questions: how to improve mental health services in schools, and how to keep weapons off school campuses.
More than half of Board of Education trustees who responded to an informal poll conducted by the New York State School Boards Association in the aftermath of the Connecticut shooting said they do not believe that the students in their districts have sufficient access to mental health services, while another 14 percent were not sure just what those services entailed.
“School safety should be our number one priority,” said Timothy Kramer, the association’s executive director. “We were surprised to find that more than half of the respondents expressed reservations about the services their students are receiving.”
More than two-thirds of poll respondents said they believe that federal money should be used to hire certified law enforcement professionals who would be assigned to one or more schools on a full-time basis. More than half of those who expressed that belief also said they were in favor of stricter gun laws.
“Students and teachers must have a strong sense of safety in the classroom for the learning process to take place,” Kramer said. “A multi-dimensional approach to school safety that incorporates bullying prevention, mental health services, responsible use of firearms and additional resource officers would likely have a better chance of success that any one single intervention by itself.”
State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Republican from Rockville Center, said last week that gun safety had become one of his top priorities, and called for court-ordered mental health treatment for individuals who are deemed to be a safety threat but won’t seek help on their own, including school students.