Putnam residents crowded the Carmel Town Hall on Saturday morning to participate in the School Safety Roundtable, which was organized to address school safety and mental health issues following the recent tragedy that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary.
“In the wake of the horrific Sandy Hook event and other recent school shootings, I believe it is vital that we come together as a community to find sensible solutions to keep our communities safe,” said Senator Greg Ball. “Today our law enforcement officials, Superintendents, mental health professionals, elected officials and students had an opportunity to have a real, open and honest conversation on how we can keep our schools safe. Too often, the problems with our mental health system are ignored. Governor Cuomo and other legislators that support cuts to these vital services don’t understand that when students fall through the cracks, tragedies like Sandy Hook can occur. Our students told us today that their School Resource Officers (SRO), school social workers and guidance counselors are on the front lines in schools, and we must work together as a community to give them all the support they need. I would like to thank all those that participated in the roundtable that continue to work everyday to make our communities and our schools a safer place.”
“School safety and the safety of our most precious resource, our children and grandchildren, has always been a top priority for all of us in law enforcement in Putnam County. It is important that we bring all of our school and governmental leaders together to insure we are using our resources to do our very best to protect our children,” said Sheriff Donald B. Smith. “I thank Senator Greg Ball for hosting this seminar, which has been a great opportunity to explore ways of maximizing our school safety resources on all levels. As law enforcement we have to be right 100% of the time, those that seek to harm our children only have to be right once.”
“It is vital that we work together to ensure our children’s safety. With the recent incidents that have occurred, now more than ever, it is urgent for us to work together to implement every possible measure to secure our schools,” said Carmel Town Supervisor Ken Schmitt. “I would like to thank Senator Greg Ball and Sheriff Don Smith for organizing this roundtable and pulling together key members of the community to participate.”
The Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents in a recent letter noted that while most gun violence against children occurs away from school, in the last twenty-five years nearly forty school shootings have resulted in deaths of 111 students and 26 school personnel. Representing the Superintendents of Putnam County was Mahopac Central School District Superintendent Thomas Manko and Haldane Central School District Mark Villanti.
“The organization of this School Safety Roundtable by Senator Ball and Sheriff Smith is much appreciated. School safety is a paramount importance to everybody,” said Manko. “We need to make sure that everyone feels safe, secure and comfortable as they come to school everyday, from our children to our employees.”
In addition to Sheriff Smith, several active law enforcement officials participated at the roundtable including Carmel Police Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E) Officer Frank Chibbaro.
“Safety in our schools is important and necessary to support the academic success of each child, giving them the opportunity to learn and achieve in a safe and nurturing environment,” said Officer Chibbaro. “Law enforcement, schools and communities need to work together to take measures to make their schools a safe place for everyone.”
During discussion at the roundtable, Dr. Lorraine Bushnell who is on the Board of Directors of the National Alliance of Mental Illness suggested that the root of school safety starts with mental health.
“We need to focus more on mental health education for our teachers and parents. Recognizing mental health issues in a child when it starts to happen is vital to being able to help that child,” said Dr. Bushnell. “The key is to train the teachers to identify problems and communicate with the parents.”
Several students representing school districts across Putnam County also attended the roundtable to give their input and suggestions for protecting their schools. They said it is vital for students to have stake at the table when talking about school safety because they have had first hand experience. The students spoke on the how effective and important their School Resource Officers (SRO) are. The students also shared their thoughts on bullying in schools and the stigma of receiving mental health services.
“Being a high school student myself, it is very comforting to know that there are officials and legislators like Senator Ball and Sheriff Smith who are working so hard to ensure that the youth of our community are safe and secure,” said Steven Youssef, Junior at Carmel High School. “It is disturbing to hear some of the things that have occurred in other communities. Senator Ball hosting this roundtable is exactly what this community needs, not only to expand upon our ideas and inform the community of the precautions being taken, but also to instill a sense of safety and security for the youth of our district.”
For more information please contact Joe Bachmeier at (845) 200 9716.