CONTACT: Al Marlin
Some 2.5 million students will head back to public schools across New York this fall amid an array of new protections approved by state lawmakers and local districts to help safeguard their health and safety.
At the state level, important new tools include the Red Flag Law, which aims to keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous people. The law includes school administrators among those who can petition a court for "extreme risk" protection orders when there is reason to believe a student may present a danger to himself, herself or others.
State lawmakers also have authorized the installation of stop-arm traffic cameras on school buses, a step that will aid prosecution of reckless motorists who pass stopped school buses and put students at risk.
Another new law ends religious exemptions that had enabled thousands of unvaccinated students to attend school and expose medically vulnerable classmates to measles in the midst of the worst outbreak of the disease since 1992.
"Increasingly, our public schools are called upon to tackle a growing number of dangerous threats that can compromise the health and safety of students," said NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer. "These new state-approved protections will help school boards and educators better meet the challenge in the school year ahead."
At the local level, many school districts are working with their community police agencies to add school resource officers to their staffs. The New York Police Juvenile Officers Association reports that more than 200 new SROs have been hired in 2019, roughly doubling the number of officers served by the organization.
NYSSBA also is aware that many member districts have hired more school psychologists, social workers and others who are trained to tend to students’ emotional and mental health needs.
"These health and safety issues transcend any perceived boundaries between urban, rural and suburban school districts," Kremer said. "They are at the heart of our mission to see our students thrive and learn in a safe, healthy environment during their time in school."