Senator Monica Martinez, the author, speaks with students
As an educator and former school administrator responsible for the health, safety, and well-being of children, I can attest there is no greater fear than your students and faculty being in danger.
As school shootings and violent threats continue to spike across the nation, school districts are confronted with the unavoidable question of how to best reduce, prevent, and respond to emergency situations, particularly those involving active shooters. Having worked in the Brentwood School District for 14 years, I am fortunate to have never experienced such a tragedy, but many cannot say the same.
Preventative measures have largely spanned the implementation of door locks, metal detectors, surveillance, security guards, active shooter drills, and anonymous reporting tools. The inclusion of school security guards specialized in an academic environment and updated technological response systems within our communities may aid in strengthening schools’ response to emergency situations.
Student mental health programs are vital for supporting the long-term health and well-being of our youth. It is important to emphasize each school district and region has varying demographics with unique student needs; there is no one-size-fits-all model for safeguarding our students against acts of violence in school.
Recent school shootings and threats have exposed vulnerabilities and deficiencies in response systems. In New York State, our emergency response services are operating on outdated technology. There is modernized technology known as Next Generation 911 (NG911) that enables faster response times, improved communication, increased accessibility for disabled individuals, enhanced location accuracy, and effective coordination among multiple emergency response agencies. This could make all the difference in life threatening situations where communication is critical and seconds matter. We should remain open to exploring all viable options.
The role of security guards in schools has undeniably changed. It is imperative school security guards receive school-specific training in youth mediation and conflict resolution, de-escalation, and the dynamics of student behavior. This will ensure they are equipped with the tools, skills, and knowledge necessary to serve our students in the most effective way.
Student mental health and well-being should not be an afterthought. Students are often in a school environment for over 40 hours per week. We would be doing them a disservice if we did not recognize and act on the need for supportive resources to empower and guide our youth through any mental, social, and behavioral challenges. Social and emotional learning must be incorporated into school curricula to help students develop important skills like stress management, resiliency, and empathy. As educators and community leaders, we must build a safe environment and a culture of acceptance within our schools.
At the end of the day, schools are a place for learning, growth, and development. Our students should be expanding their minds in class and excited about upcoming school events, not fearful of school shootings or any other type of violence. Together, we must raise awareness and implement holistic school safety measures to fully support our school districts, students, parents, staff, and communities statewide.
State Senator Monica R. Martinez represents the 4th district, on Long Island. On Twitter @NYSSenatorMRM.