NYS PTA on School Security and Safety: Keeping Our Children Safe Always

The first priority of every parent, every family and every educator is the safety and security of our children.

Now is a time for both national mourning and ACTION, as yet another school shooting claimed the lives of 17 innocent students and faculty members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

The PTA message and mission have never been more important. We offer these following areas for action:

  1. School and Student Safety and Security
    • We STRONGLY OPPOSE arming educators, administrators, or teachers in our schools;
    • We ask that New York’s Smart School Bond Act plans that include safety and security measures be immediately expedited for approval, so that construction may begin and completed within the 2018-19 school year;
    • We advocate for swift review and approval of school safety initiatives that have already been submitted to the State Education Department and Division of Budget for typical education reimbursement, which likely necessitates immediate funding increases for additional SED staff and/or consultants for this process;
    • We call for additional state funding for safety and security initiatives as a separate categorical aid in FY 18-19 State Budget and beyond;
    • We ask for a statutory tax-cap exemption for safety and security initiatives to be included in FY 18-19 State Budget and in perpetuity;
    • We call for a highly secure statewide platform for detailed school building mapping of all districts that is accessible (only) to first responders, that includes vulnerability and threat assessments, within the current requirement for school safety plans;
    • We support funding for School Resource Officers at local discretion, with decision to be made in collaboration with parents, teachers, administrators, school boards, school-related professionals, with community input.
  2. Student Mental Health, Socio-Emotional Health, and Bullying Prevention:
    • We support increased mental health, socio-emotional health, and bullying prevention services for students and inclusion of the proposed $250,000 for school-based mental health programs in FY 18-19 State Budget;
    • We ask that program and funding expansion for school-based mental health, socio-emotional health, and bullying prevention programs be available on a non-competitive basis for ALL school districts in the FY 18-19 State Budget;
    • We request a new categorical aid for mental health, socio-emotional health, and bullying prevention services for ALL school districts FY 18-19 State Budget;
    • We fully support the $10 million request from the State Education Department for increased mental health services, and programs for improving school culture, climate and safety and call for its inclusion in FY 18-19 State Budget; and
    • We call for adequate funding, support, and for reasonable case loads for school guidance counselors, school psychologists, school nurses, and clinical licensed social workers for each school building in FY 18-19 State Budget, which will likely require an incremental increase in Foundation Aid.
  3. Student Voice
    • We strongly support a student’s voice in advocacy for meaningful input into safety and security matters;
    • We ask our PTA units to work with administrators and teachers to ensure student safety and security for any organized and/or planned demonstration or during other school district or student gatherings;
    • We encourage our PTAs to continue to support the student voice in a positive and safe manner, and further suggest the following ideas:
      • Host speakers on topics related to supporting students;
      • Engage in a letter writing campaign to our NYS Congressional Delegation on the federal bills detailed below, and visit Congressional leaders in their home offices with students to discuss solutions;
      • Host a school spirit rally to help with student morale or other events that celebrate students accomplishments;
      • Host meaningful conversations about mental health, socio-emotional health, and bullying prevention;
      • Host “Be Kind” days or other supportive events for students;
      • Host a parent/family meeting about school security, and programs that support mental health, socio-emotional health, and bullying prevention.
    • PTA units should have a conversation with their school leaders on the requirement for a School Safety Plan, and discuss other school safety;
    • Please see a memo here from National PTA about Gun Violence Prevention and Student Voice – https://nyspta.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/NEWS-Talking-Points-for-PTAs_Gun-Violence-Prevention-and-Student-Voice.pdf.
  4. Federal Action
    • We strongly support the following federal bills:
      • The STOP School Violence Act (H.R. 4909)
      • The Gun Violence Research Act (H.R. 1478)
      • The Fix NICS Act (S. 2135/H.R. 4434)
    • We will ask our Congressional Delegation to co-sponsor the aforementioned legislation;
    • We will issue an action alert asking members to both phone and email their members of Congress on Wednesday, March 14 on the aforementioned federal legislation, aligned with the first day of action planned;
  5. Other Information of Note
    • New York State has a website – https://safeschools.ny.gov – which details many of our state’s school safety initiatives.
    • NYS enacted the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act in 2013, which you can read more about here ­– https://safeact.ny.gov/:
    • National PTA has issued positions statement on Gun Safety and Violence Prevention, including examples of ways to improve youth safety and to restrict guns to only responsible owners (note, see above information on NYS SAFE Act, as many of these federal issues have already been addressed in NYS):
    • National PTA has offered the following examples to improve youth safety and to restrict guns to only responsible gun owners:
      • gun safety locks and other safety devices to prevent young children from accidentally discharging a gun;
      • alternative educational settings for youth who have brought a firearm to school, along with appropriate evaluation and counseling;
      • restrict Internet gun sales, including kits that can be used to make/modify guns;
      • enforce federal and state minimum age requirements for handgun purchases;
      • raise the minimum age to 21 to be allowed to buy a handgun from non-licensed dealers;
      • allow at least three business days to conduct background checks;
      • require non-licensed dealers to conduct background checks and fill out proper paperwork so that guns can be traced;
      • increase penalties for the transfer of handguns or semi-automatic assault weapons to juveniles for use in a crime;
      • revoke the license of dealers who knowingly sell to minors;
      • establish education programs to teach students, parents, and community members about gun safety and violence prevention;
      • prevent juveniles who commit violent crimes from buying guns as adults;
      • support state and federal funding initiatives for the research of the causes and effects of gun violence;
      • federal legislation to require a license to purchase a handgun;
      • prohibit the sale of more than one handgun a month to any individual;
      • prohibit gun possession by those convicted of spousal abuse and child abuse;
      • require a special license for possession of a gun arsenal;
      • require gun dealers to pay an increased annual license fee;
      • mandate a federal tax on assault weapons ammunition; and
      • ban semi-automatic and automatic assault weapons, Saturday night special handguns, and non-sporting ammunition;
      • require, prior to purchasing a firearm, a waiting period and background check to screen out illegal firearm purchasers such as convicted felons and drug-related offenders;
      • outlaw military-style semi-automatic assault weapons; and
      • require knowledge of appropriate firearms use and safety practices.

Military-style semi-automatic assault weapons that National PTA has called for a federal/state outlaw and ban include those firearms which:

  • were originally designed for military or law enforcement purposes and for fully automatic purposes;
  • are designed to be fired in full or semi-automatic mode in combat; and
  • are designed to accommodate a large capacity combat magazine.
  • these weapons include: INTRATEC TEC – 9, Street Sweeper and Striker 12, Colt AR-15 and CAR-15, MAC 10 and MAC 11 in addition to five firearms that are in the federal government’s ban, including Norinco, Mitchell, and Poly Technologies Automat Kalashnikov S (all models), Action Arms Israeli Military Industries UZI and Galil, Fabrique Nationale FN/FAL; FN/LAR, and FNC, Steyr AU, and others.

Further, NYS PTA is planning three School Safety and Security half-day conference in Albany, Western NY, and Long Island with NYS PTA partner Intralogic Solutions. We will share more information once it is available. NYS PTA will continue to produce educational materials for all PTAs and other parent groups, and will feature this topic at our Summer Leadership Conference and Annual Convention.

Our mission has never been clearer – to support EVERY child, with ONE voice, to ensure EVERY child is SAFE in school and home.

We thank you for your dedication to children – today, tomorrow, and always. There is no more important work.