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Where do your lawmakers stand on school safety? We're asking them

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With school shootings like the one in Santa Fe, Texas — which claimed the lives of 10 people Friday — at the top of people's minds, CNYCentral is asking our leaders where they stand on the issue.

We reached out to state and federal representatives Monday afternoon to ask them these five questions:

1)Is making our Schools Safer a priority of yours? (Describe where it stands on your priorities)

2)What actions are you currently taking to increase school safety, prevent school shootings in the future?

3)What actions do you want to see being taken in the near future?

4)We’ve heard many solutions suggested – please identify ONE solution that you believe WILL work and tell us why.

5)What are you hearing from your constituents; what do they want to see being done by their representatives?


Listed below are each of the public officials we contacted and their response, if we've heard back from them.

This list is current as of 2:15 p.m. Thursday.

US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D - NY)

- No response thus far

US Senator Chuck Schumer (D - NY)

On Friday morning, there was yet another school shooting in America; another community torn apart by senseless violence; another week when parents must bury their children. We are still learning the tragic details of what happened in Santa Fe, but the basic reality in America remains unchanged: far too many people are dying from gun violence.

What we need now more than ever is real, substantive debate on gun violence in America. A real debate about universal background checks. A real debate about protective orders. A real debate on regulating assault weapons, which are often the weapon of choice in most mass shootings – in most deadly mass shootings, rather.

In the wake of Parkland, it looked like President Trump would finally get religion on this issue. He promised a serious debate on gun violence. But as soon as the NRA and their special-interest cronies closed ranks around him, he backed off. That seems to be the pattern in this administration. The president says something one day, some powerful interest says don’t do it, and he backs right off. That’s not the kind of strength he wishes to show, and he sure hasn’t shown it on this issue. Now, after this most recent tragedy in Santa Fe, we’ve heard no new calls for commonsense gun safety from the White House.

But this chamber can still act. I implore my friends across the aisle to take up this debate. We owe it to the people of Santa Fe, Texas; the people of Parkland, Florida; and every other community who lives at the mercy of the gaping loopholes in our gun laws.


Representative John Katko (R - NY 24)

1)Is making our Schools Safer a priority of yours? (Describe where it stands on your priorities

Yes. The failure of Republicans and Democrats to work together to date to produce meaningful solutions is unacceptable. As a father of three, I am heartbroken and angered. As a member of Congress, I am committed to channeling those emotions into action. Despite the partisan divide in Washington, I believe there are several areas in which federal lawmakers can find common ground and deliver.

2)What actions are you currently taking to increase school safety, prevent school shootings in the future?

There are several initiatives in Congress that have broad support where we have already taken action. First, with my support, Congress voted to strengthen the National Instant Background Check System (FIX NICS) to ensure comprehensive reporting to this database. In addition, the House authorized additional funding for School Resource Officers, active shooter training for police, and Department of Education funding to improve students’ safety and well-being through grants that support school mental health services, bullying and harassment prevention, mentoring and school counseling and training for school personnel.

3)What actions do you want to see being taken in the near future?

In the long-term, we must continue to focus attention on mental health. As co-chair of the bipartisan Mental Health Caucus in Congress, I’ve already begun a discussion on the correlation or non-correlation between mental health issues and mass shootings.

I’m also supportive of red-flag legislation, which would empower states to keep guns out of the hands of individuals who struggle with mental health issues and present a risk to themselves or others. Additionally, I have long supported a ban on bump stocks and believe Congress must act swiftly to outlaw the sale of these devices.

4)We’ve heard many solutions suggested – please identify ONE solution that you believe WILL work and tell us why.

There is no easy fix. I believe there are several areas we must study, and determine where action can most appropriately be taken in the long-term. In order to do so, I recently introduced a bipartisan bill in the House to create a commission specifically tasked with examining the rise of mass shootings in America and recommending changes to federal law. Gun violence has decreased dramatically nationwide, yet, the number of mass shootings continues to rise at an alarming rate. My legislation would bring together individuals and groups from across the political spectrum to examine this challenge. No policy proposal should be left out of the discussion, and I believe that proposals to raise the purchasing age for assault style weapons and to require universal background checks should be studied and considered under this commission.

5)What are you hearing from your constituents; what do they want to see being done by their representatives?

I have heard from many of my constituents across the four counties that I represent. But perhaps the most important voice is that of our students. I believe is critical that our students, teachers, school administrators and parents remain a part of this conversation and I welcome their contributions as we pursue reforms on the federal level.

I recognize that this is an area where impassioned and fervent debate is expected, and frankly, should be welcomed. I continue to seek the input of all of my constituents, and will work to pursue a bipartisan conversation on this important topic in Washington.


Representative Tom Reed (R - NY 23)

- No response thus far

Representative Claudia Tenney (R - NY 22)

- No response thus far

Governor Andrew Cuomo (D - NY)

- No response thus far

State Senator John DeFrancisco (R - 50th District)

1) Is making our Schools Safer a priority of yours? (Describe where it stands on your priorities) It's a top priority.
2) What actions are you currently taking to increase school safety, prevent school shootings in the future? We have taken several actions through legislation passed by the State Senate.
3) What actions do you want to see being taken in the near future? The action would be for the Assembly to take up and pass these bills.
4) We’ve heard many solutions suggested – please identify ONE solution that you believe WILL work and tell us why. There is no single solution to this problem. That's why we passed a series of bills (legislation) that looks to deal with the many components of this very serious school safety issue.
5) What are you hearing from your constituents; what do they want to see being done by their representatives? The basic message from constituents is that they are very concerned about this problem, but understand how complex the solutions are to address it. The most important message from constituents is that they want to keep our children safe, as do I, and any other sane human being. Moreover, when they learned of the passage of these bills in the Senate, most everyone expressed their support.


State Senator Pamela Helming (R - 54th District)

- No response thus far

State Senator Patty Ritchie (R - 48th District)

1) Is making our Schools Safer a priority of yours? (Describe where it stands on your priorities)
When children leave for school in the morning, no parent should have to worry about whether their child is safe. However, in today’s world, nearly every parent does. The safety of our children, especially in a place like school, has to be among our top priorities. It is for me. I know that by taking steps, such as improving mental health services for students, increasing the availability of School Resource Officers, providing teachers with wearable, personal alarms and making investments into improved security, we can ensure our children, and those who work so hard to help them achieve brighter futures, are safe.
2) What actions are you currently taking to increase school safety, prevent school shootings in the future?
I firmly believe one of the biggest things we can do to improve school safety is to ensure every school district has adequate mental health services that are easily accessible to students. To achieve that goal, I have sponsored a bill—which has passed the Senate—that will enhance and improve in-school mental health counseling for students by calling for a statewide review of school counselors, school social workers and school psychologists who serve students. It also directs the state Education Commissioner to develop a plan to achieve nationally accepted professional-to-student ratios in every district and region.
I have also cosponsored a number of bills—all of which have passed the Senate—aimed at improving school safety. Those include:
Measures that would create a School Resource Officers Education Aid Program and authorize districts to receive state funding to hire a School Resource Officer or contract with the state, a county, city, town, or village for their services (S.7811A and S.7810A);
A bill that would increase the earnings limitations for retired police officers while employed by schools. Earnings would be increased from the current $30,000 per year limit to $50,000 per year (S.7791);
A bill that would provide all teachers—as well as staff members who have significant, daily student contact—with wearable, personal safety alarms so they can instantly alert administrators and call for help in the event of an emergency (S.7816)
Legislation (S.7846) that would improve the Smart School Bond Act Allocation process by requiring the Smart Schools Review Board to meet monthly and approve plans submitted by schools, provide updates on pending applications, and notify schools within seven days of a plan being rejected or modifications being sought;
A bill to create the “Mental Health Services Program Coordinator Education Aid Program,” which would make schools eligible for $50,000 in state funding for the hiring of a mental health services coordinator (S.7805);
A measure that would define school shootings as terrorism and improve intelligence to prevent attacks (S.7813-A);
Legislation to increase “active shooter drills” and allow districts to request that School Safety Improvement Teams provide recommendations on how to conduct lock-down and active shooter drills (S.7845);
A bill to expand the membership of existing required School Safety Improvement Teams to include representatives of the state Division of Homeland Security, State Police, Department of Criminal Justice Services, Office of General Services and Education Department (S.7832);
Legislation to expand the existing laws in place to prevent school bomb threats so that other types of threats can be prosecuted as well (S.2521); and
A measure that would increase the penalties for assault or abductions that take place on school grounds, including nursery schools, and college campuses (S.2881).
I am hopeful that in the remaining weeks of the 2018 Legislative Session, the Assembly will act on these measures and that they become law.
3) What actions do you want to see being taken in the near future?
While I believe that all of these measures will go a long way in securing our schools and safeguard our children and school staff, I do believe my bill to enhance and improve in-school mental health counseling can make a significant impact.
Currently, one in five children will face a mental health issue at one point during their academic career whether it be from bullying, family issues, anxiety, drugs, alcohol or mental illness. Having a sufficient number of mental health professionals on hand, to interact, spot problems early and work with students can be a critical part of their success.
4) We’ve heard many solutions suggested – please identify ONE solution that you believe WILL work and tell us why.
Improving security in our schools will help to make sure students, and educators feel safe, which I believe is incredibly important right now. To that end, I am working on efforts to secure funding that will help provide a personal, wearable alarm to every educator, as well as staff members who have regular contact with students in the school districts I represent.
In order for our young people to be successful, they—and their teachers—need to feel safe at school. This effort will help make that possible.
5) What are you hearing from your constituents; what do they want to see being done by their representatives?
The people of Senate District 48 want to feel like their children are in good, safe hands while at school. They want to know that we are all working together to help ease their fears and end senseless violence in our schools, in our communities and all across New York State.


State Senator James Seward (R - 51st District)

1 – Fostering a safe learning environment and ensuring students, teachers and visitors to our schools are secure is a leading priority of mine.

2 – I am strongly in favor of any measure that will effectively enhance school safety and protect our children, particularly in the face of the recent surge in school violence and threats. The state senate has passed a comprehensive legislative package that includes real solutions that can be achieved quickly and will help return peace of mind to students, parents, and teachers.

Highlights include:

Making it easier for schools across the state to hire qualified security personnel, including a cop or an armed resource officer in schools that choose to do so;

Providing new state funding for infrastructure improvements that bolster school security and ensure funding that is already available gets out the door faster;

Increasing access to school-based mental health services to get students the help they need while identifying potential threats before, not after, a tragedy occurs;

Taking steps to improve intelligence coordination to protect schools against attack, and strengthening penalties for crimes that do occur on school grounds.

3 - Moving forward, I will continue to pursue additional commonsense measures that not only ensure our schools are safe havens for children, but that will protect all citizens from illegal gun violence. It is critical that the state assembly join the senate and pass the package of school safety bills that await their action.

4 – Helping schools hire qualified security personnel will immediately improve school safety. Having the right individuals in place protects students in the event of a disaster situation, and helps prevent situations from escalating in the first place.

5- I have discussed this topic with students, parents, teachers, school administrators, and local police and sheriffs. Many have called for school resource officers to help secure our schools while others have suggested more accessible mental health care is necessary. I am working for improvements on both of these fronts.


State Senator David Valesky (D - 53rd District)

"Keeping our children, teachers, and administrators safe while at schools has always been at the top of my priorities. I have been working with local schools to make sure they have adequate funding to install safety features and/or equipment as needed. This year’s budget allows school districts to use building aid to fund additional security measures like door hardening, metal detectors, and other related infrastructure.

The New York State Senate passed a number of bills in March that address gun violence in schools and would increase school safety. Among them are bills that would create a school resource officers education aid program, provide state aid to school districts for acquiring safety technology and improving security of their facilities, create a new mental health services coordinator aid program, assess and improve mental health resources in schools, provide that threats to schools would be treated under the law the same as terroristic threats, increase active shooter drills, upgrade school safety improvement teams, and increase the penalty for someone who makes a threat to a school. All of these bills passed with my support.

Many of my constituents have reached out to my office in support of legislation, which I co-sponsor, that would enact extreme risk protection orders. These laws provide a legal procedure for removing firearms from at-risk individuals."


State Assembly Member William Barclay (R - 120th District)

1) Is making our Schools Safer a priority of yours? (Describe where it stands on your priorities)
Of course. Like most, I have difficulty comprehending why someone would ever commit such senseless acts of violence. I am sad for the students, families and the communities who have lost loved ones in these tragedies. Children should not have to fear going to school.
2) What actions are you currently taking to increase school safety, prevent school shootings in the future?
With any tragedy, it is important that we learn what we can and address the root issue of how and why this took place. Too often, government’s response is often “feel good” measures that in the end, still fail in addressing the problem comprehensively. Mental illness is a strong underlying factor in most of these tragedies and we need better services both in the school and in the community. We also need to focus our resources on school building safety, such as “hardening” of the school facilities through building and technological safety upgrades, providing financial assistance to employ school resource officers in every school and better coordination between school, counselors and law enforcement to help identify troubled individuals before a tragedy occurs.
3) What actions do you want to see being taken in the near future?
I would like more schools to have access to school resource officers. This was a proposal that I advocated for during the budget and a measure that is supported by the New York State Sheriff’s Association. Currently, the state spends significant resources in the protection of judges, due to the nature of their job. Our students deserve nothing less and we should provide the necessary funding to have a school resource officer in each school. Not only would a school resource officer be helpful in a time of crisis, but would be a positive presence in school and could help the school with drug prevention and other safety planning. It is also important to note that the school resource officer is a trained law enforcement officer. Unfortunately, this has been not politically popular with many Democrats, particularly those in the Assembly.
In addition funding school resource officers, my conference and I have called on the governor to create a Temporary Commission on School Safety. This commission would be charged with the task on establishing uniform standards and protocols on safety for all New York Schools.
Lastly, I would like to see more assistance provided to schools so they can have the funding necessary to redesign buildings to create a single point of entry, purchase safety technology systems, metal detectors and improved access/coordination to mental health services.
4) We’ve heard many solutions suggested – please identify ONE solution that you believe WILL work and tell us why.
School resource officers can be extremely effective on many levels. Again, these are trained law enforcement officers and are the same individuals who are called upon by the public in time of an emergency. Having them in school, they will build relationships with students, be a positive role model, work proactively with school officials on safety measures, and, in times of emergency be able to respond and protect students.
5) What are you hearing from your constituents; what do they want to see being done by their representatives?
Most of my constituents have asked for the same things I am advocating for – school resource officers, building modifications to increase safety, financial assistance to schools to implement these measures and better access to mental health services. Interestingly, many constituents have shared their concern that politicians will use these tragedies to push their political agenda to further restrict legal gun ownership rather than making schools safer. What they want to see is real solutions and not one that is going to mask the problem.


State Assembly Member Anthony Brindisi (D - 119th District)

- No response thus far

State Assembly Member Gary Finch (R - 126th District)

- No response thus far

State Assembly Member Pamela Hunter (D - 128th District)

1)Is making our Schools Safer a priority of yours? (Describe where it stands on your priorities)
School safety is a high priority for me. While my colleagues and I have taken measures to enact common sense gun control, it is obvious that more needs to be done. Most recently, I passed a bill that closes the mental health background check loophole for out of state residents who purchase firearms in New York State. To ensure true progress, we must continue a broader conversation with our school administrators and teachers, our communities, and most importantly our students. A combination of gun violence prevention legislation, greater mental healthcare resources, and greater support for students will likely all be necessary to bring about meaningful change.
2)What actions are you currently taking to increase school safety, prevent school shootings in the future?
Whether it’s gang violence, individual victimization or mass shootings that we’ve recently witnessed in Santa Fe, Texas and Parkland, Florida, school shootings shouldn’t be routine. I helped pass a package of legislation, one of which I sponsored, that will provide greater prevention measures for keeping firearms out of the hands of dangerous individuals. From increased mental health background checks, to the removal of weapons from those who commit domestic violence, to banning bump stocks and establishing longer waiting periods for an individuals who have not cleared a background check, New York is taking action on enacting sensible reforms.
I also supported legislation to create the ‘extreme risk protection order’. Under this legislation, an individual would not be able to possess or purchase a firearm if an extreme risk protection order is granted by the court. Extreme risk protection orders give more authority to local judges and the community. Family and friends concerned about an individual can petition a court and weapons can be removed temporarily if need be until the threat is evaluated.
3)What actions do you want to see being taken in the near future?
As these tragedies continue, it is important we get policy goals signed into law. This may take some concessions from both sides of the debate. The Assembly and Senate have both passed a number of measures seeking to prevent mass shootings. It is time we find common ground and enact sensible reform.
4)We’ve heard many solutions suggested – please identify ONE solution that you believe WILL work and tell us why.
Nationwide, the extreme risk protection order is, I believe, the most promising. The protection order allows those most concerned about a potentially dangerous individual the ability to do more than simply report it. Action can be taken by the people who are most concerned about the consequences of inaction. If the threat is determined to be unfounded after due process, that individual will receive their firearms back. In this way, those who value gun rights will not be infringed upon while public safety is elevated. I believe that this is a policy proposal that people from multiple sides of the gun debate can get behind.
5)What are you hearing from your constituents; what do they want to see being done by their representatives?
Constituents want to see an end to mass shootings and an end to gun violence in their neighborhoods. We deserve to be safe in our schools, our homes, our places of business, and in our communities. While mass shootings rightly take the focus after far too frequent tragedies, we must remember that we have the responsibility to put in the work required to address all aspects and forms of gun violence.


State Assembly Member Barbara Lifton (D-125th District)

1) Is making our Schools Safer a priority of yours? (Describe where it stands on your priorities)

Making our schools and communities safer is a majority priority of mine. I have been shocked and appalled by all the school shootings, including the most recent ones in Florida and Texas, and I believe action is long past due, particularly at the national level. Throughout my tenure in the Assembly, I have been a strong proponent of curbing gun violence, including voting for the SAFE Act, which banned military-style weapons like AR-15s, limited the number of bullets in a magazine, enacted universal background checks, and created measures to keep guns out of the hands of those who are a danger to themselves or others. These are commonsense measures that make both our schools and communities safer. There is a direct correlation between gun safety measures and gun fatalities. New York State has the third lowest rate of gun fatalities in the United States. That is not a coincidence.

2) What actions are you currently taking to increase school safety, prevent school shootings in the future?

I have fought and voted for increased funding for our local schools, including the Smart Schools Bond Act, which could be used for security measures at our schools, among other things. Most recently, I have voted for two bills in the Assembly that could help increase school safety. One is a measure to ban bump stocks, which are devices that can convert semi-automatic weapons into machine guns. The second is a bill – directly inspired by the Parkland shooting – that would allow a court to issue an “Extreme Risk Protection Order” that prohibits a person who has been deemed by a court or law enforcement officer to be a risk to themselves or others from owning or purchasing guns for up to one year.

3) What actions do you want to see being taken in the near future?

Given the actions we’ve already taken in New York – including passing the SAFE Act – I think the biggest priority right now is to enact the Assembly’s package of gun bills into law. In order for this to happen, we will need action by the State Senate.

4) We’ve heard many solutions suggested – please identify ONE solution that you believe WILL work and tell us why.

If I were to choose one measure that I believe would make an immediate difference, I would choose our Assembly bill that allows a court to issue an “Extreme Risk Protection Order” prohibiting a person who has been deemed a threat to themselves or others from owning or purchasing guns. Many people think this would have stopped the Parkland shooter, and, no doubt, others who often signal their intent to do grave harm. Right now, the bill has only passed the Assembly.

5) What are you hearing from your constituents; what do they want to see being done by their representatives?

From my constituents I am hearing, overwhelmingly, a desire to take swift action on the issue of gun safety, both in schools and the wider community, where gun violence often happens in a less dramatic, but also tragic way. With all of the school shootings in the news, people are naturally worried. There is a persistent concern that we have a major epidemic of gun violence in this country and we need to address it sooner rather than later.


State Assembly Member William Magnarelli (D - 129th District)

- No response thus far

State Assembly Member Al Stirpe (D - 127th District)

1)Is making our Schools Safer a priority of yours? School safety is a top priority, and I have been working in the community and within the legislature to develop solutions that I think will help keep students more secure. The fact is, the status quo isn’t keeping our kids safe, and we need to find a better way.

2)What actions are you currently taking to increase school safety, prevent school shootings in the future? As you know, I attended the town hall on school violence. I’ve also met with several superintendents and toured local schools to learn more about ways to improve security and increase intervention. That, in part, led me to introduce two bills that I believe could help improve schools security. The first would allow retired police officers to more easily serve as a school resource officer (A.10284), creating a pool of seasoned experts who could serve in this capacity for schools in a cost-effective way. The second bill would create a group to study how best to train school resource officers to both respond to school shootings and to develop the relationships within the school community that can prevent events like these (A.10819). I believe it’s important that SROs not just be there to respond to incidents, but that they use community policing practices to identify kids who may be at risk and help them get the support they need.

3)What actions do you want to see being taken in the near future? In New York, we already have fairly significant gun regulations that help keep weapons out of the hands of people who want to do harm to others and that limit access to high capacity firearms. And the Assembly recently voted to ban bump stocks and to create extreme risk protection orders when an individual poses a threat to themselves or others (A.9958, A.8976-B). So I have concentrated my efforts on making sure schools have the resources they need to be secure. I also think we need to focus on the mental health side of the equation, with more awareness of the signs and symptoms of potential troubled youths and more ways for people to communicate those concerns.

4)We’ve heard many solutions suggested – please identify ONE solution that you believe WILL work and tell us why. There is not one solution to this problem, and if anyone says there is, they are likely ignoring the complexity of the issue. Sound firearm regulations, access to mental health services, a culture of intervention within schools, and well-trained school resource officers that are an active part of the school community are all steps in the right direction.

5) What are you hearing from your constituents; what do they want to see being done by their representatives? My district office has heard from many constituents. One thing we’ve heard consistently is that the overwhelming majority of district residents are strongly against arming teachers. They believe educators are here to teach, not be an armed guard. I agree. Otherwise, everyone just wants to find answers and solve this national problem.


If you want to reach any of these representatives to let them know what you think, we have contact information for them here.

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