Tedisco introduces school security bills

The state Senate has passed two bills sponsored by Sen. Jim Tedisco (Republican-Glenville) to enhance area school safety following Feb. 14 shooting in Parkland, Fla.

The ‘Guardians for Schools’ New York State License Plate Bill is aimed at providing another source of funding to increase security at schools, and “Suzanne’s Law Assault-Free School Zone Bill” is directed at deterring school by increasing penalties.

Tedisco has joined Senate majority colleagues to act on a “holistic and comprehensive” package of school safety bills to help fund armed school resource officers, enhanced mental health counseling, metal detectors, active shooter training, security cameras and other building modifications to help improve school safety, according to a news release. They also passes a bill named after Suzanne Lyall, who has been missing since 1998, to increase penalties for violent crimes committed on all school grounds.

The bills have been sent to the state Assembly for its review.

Fulton County Sheriff Richard Giardino said the senator’s bills would go beyond his own efforts to fund a security officer to be shared by the county’s eight rural school districts. On March 12 the sheriff asked the county supervisors to allow him to seek $125,000 in federal funding for that. The cities were not included in his request since they are within the jurisdictions of their own police departments.

Giardino said he welcomes the additional funding the state can provide to protect the schools in his jurisdiction, which comprises 500 square miles and could sometimes involve a response time of 20 minutes.

“Since I took office, I have been attempting to get support for a grant-funded school resource officer. Senator Tedisco’s innovative ‘Guardians for Schools’ initiative would support our efforts to fund armed school resource officers and other security measures to protect our schools,” Giardino said.

The additional state funds would especially help low-wealth districts to enhance student safety.

Montgomery County Undersheriff Robert Thomas he is always in favor of laws increasing penalties for violent crime, especially in schools– “whatever it takes to deter these [violent] people.”

He said his office has a uniformed officer in Amsterdam High School who works to help resolve student problems, preferably without involving the criminal justice system. It also has other officers in the county’s schools to educate youths on violence, drugs and bullying, and it has random patrols in school zones as a deterrent.

Montgomery County Sheriff Michael Amato said the license plate bill won’t provide all the funds needed for resource officers but is “moving in the right direction.” The sheriff’s department has had resource officers in schools since the late 1970s.

The “Suzanne’s Law — the Assault-Free School Zone” bill to protect children and students from violence on school grounds is named in honor of Suzanne Lyall of Ballston Spa, who went missing 20 years ago last week from the University at Albany. “Suzanne’s Law” increases penalties for assaults and abductions on school grounds by one category higher, resulting in stricter penalties and longer prison sentences. The bill covers preschools, day care facilities, public and private schools, trade schools, and colleges and universities.

With Tedisco’s support, the Senate is advancing a comprehensive school safety legislative package of 15 bills to create a school resource officers education aid program and grant availability to help schools pay for them, boost state aid for school resource officers and to improve security technology at schools, improve access to mental health services for schools, increase active shooter drills, define school shootings as terrorism and improve intelligence to prevent attacks, and enhance access to scanner technology and metal detectors for our schools.

“My Senate Majority Colleagues and I are taking a holistic and comprehensive approach — not a political one — to protecting our most vulnerable population in school settings by passing several public safety bills including my ‘Guardians for Schools’ New York State License Plate to help our school districts pay for the expense of improving school safety, and ‘Suzanne’s Law’ to increase criminal penalties for assaults and abductions on school grounds by one category higher to show that New York has zero tolerance for violent crimes committed on school grounds,” Tedisco said.

“Our schools are sacred grounds that should be protected against the threat of violence. Sadly, as we know all too well, that’s not always the case,” he said.

“While we need sensible policies in regards to the Second Amendment, it can only be classified as hypocritical to rail against the common sense programs that the Senate is advancing today when some enjoy the peace of mind that they are being protected by armed guards and metal detectors at our state Capitol yet they would deny the same level of protection for our kids when they go to school. As we protect our workplace with these security assets, we should expect no less for our schools,”Tedisco added.