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City must pay for security at private schools: Vallone

A Connecticut police officer stands at an intersection closed after the shooting in Newtown, Conn. Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. has renewed his call for the city to pay for private schools' security in the aftermath of the massacre. AP Photo/Seth Wenig
TimesLedger Newspapers

In the wake of the massacre two weeks ago at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) renewed a push for his bill that would require the city to provide security for private and religious schools.

“Obviously, the recent tragedy makes it all the more important that we get this done,” Vallone said.

The councilman, chairman of the Council Public Safety Committee, said that in every public school there is at least one school safety officer and the NYPD has the option of allocating more officers to a school based on local crime statistics. In addition, the NYPD has 350 armed NYPD patrol officers assigned to the schools throughout the city.

While not going as far as National Rifle Association President Wayne LaPierre’s demand Friday to have an armed security officer in every school, Vallone’s bill would have the city pay for school safety officers in the buildings as well as provide metal detectors, cameras and other services. The councilman said with private school enrollment on the downswing, private schools have sometimes had to make budget cuts to security.

“That’s clearly not something that we can allow to have happen,” Vallone said.

The councilman originally introduced this legislation in 2010, but has renewed it in light of the Dec. 14 school shooting in Newtown, in which 20 6- to 7-year-old children and six adult staff members were slain by 20-year-old Adam Lanza, who killed his mother before taking three of her firearms and driving to the school.

The legislation has a precedent, Vallone said, because the city currently provides school nurses for private and religious schools.

“I think kids’ safety is at least as important as kids’ health,” he said.

The leadership of many types of public schools is in support of his plan, including Jewish organizations, the Catholic Church and charter schools, Vallone said. Councilman Fernando Cabrera (D-Bronx) has also thrown his support behind the bill.

“All kids deserve equal protection regardless of what school they go to,” Vallone said.

If passed, the legislation would require the NYPD to hire more school safety officers.

When asked, the councilman said this plan would not be able to stop a gunman like Lanza. Nevertheless, he said more armed police officers, both in school and in general, should be hired.

“That doesn’t mean we should not do anything we possibly can to make our kids safe,” he said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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