Mount Pleasant, N.Y. – 6/08/2013 – Senator Greg Ball (R,C,I-Patterson) hosted a School Safety Roundtable on Saturday, June 8th with the Mount Pleasant Central School District Board of Education and Superintendent Dr. Susan Guiney.
Dozens of residents, school board members, local elected officials, mental health professionals and students gathered at Westlake High School on Saturday afternoon to address school safety and mental health issues following the recent tragedy that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“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. “I am happy to sit down with Dr. Guiney, the Mount Pleasant School Board, local law enforcement, school officials, mental health experts and students to figure out how we can coordinate our efforts to ensure our schools are safe.”
“School safety is our top priority for all of us here at the Mount Pleasant School District. It is so important that we bring everyone together to ensure we are doing everything in our power to protect our most precious resource, our children,” said Superintendent Dr. Susan Guiney. “I would like to thank Senator Greg Ball for his dedication to our school safety and for his work in pulling together the key members of our community to make this roundtable possible.”
“As an Officer of the law I understand the importance of keeping our schools safe and I recognize the significance of this timely topic,” said Mount Pleasant Police Chief Lou Alagno. “I want to thank Senator Greg Ball for putting this event together and getting the entire community involved.”
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 shootings have occurred at schools resulting in deaths of 111 students and 26 school personnel.
Several students from Senator Ball’s Youth Advisory Council, representing school districts in the area, also attended the roundtable to give their input and suggestions for protecting students. Sabrena Sabet from Lakeland noted there are no drills or training provided to students on how to respond to an armed intruder.
“I think we need to spend more time with our school resource officers and conduct more drills and training so we know how to respond if there are armed intruders,” said Sabet. “While funding is always a clear issue, I think it’s important that we work smarter with the resources we have to better protect our schools.”
Drew Podgorski, Chairman of Senator Ball’s Youth Advisory Council and senior at Brewster High School, said it is vital for students to have stake at the table when talking about school safety because they have had firsthand experience. Drew spoke on the how effective and important their School Resource Officers (SRO) are.
“It is very reassuring that Senator Greg Ball and Dr. Susan Guiney have pulled together all these officials and professionals to ensure our schools stay safe,” said Podgorski, “My school has a resource officer and I have seen firsthand how well this program works. I believe that the SRO program should be expanded to schools throughout our area.”
“School Resource Officers are vital resources that bridge the gap between the school and the community,” said Mike Covalyk, of Tactical Recovery Network. “Whether it be hiring more police or bringing in private security, we need better security in our schools.”
In addition to school safety, the roundtable also focused on mental health issues. Mental health officials that work in the Mount Pleasant School District said early intervention is key and stressed the importance of putting mental health professionals in schools as early as elementary school.
“Mount Pleasant School District is fortunate enough to have a robust mental health program including having social workers on staff. We are able to work closely with our students to talk about their background and help prevent issues in the school,” said Nick DiPaolo, Guidance Council at Westlake High School. “However, there is a void when the student goes home to their family, that’s where we fall short of having a grasp on this.”
“We need more funding and resources for mental health in our schools. Here in Mount Pleasant we have good funding, but we can always use more, especially in our elementary schools,” said Nicole Lloyd, Columbus Elementary School Psychologist. “Although I am supportive of the SRO program, I wonder about the risk it puts on our students.”
For more information please contact Joe Bachmeier at (845) 200 9716.