Mass. Senator Creates Legislation for Enhanced School Safety

BOSTON — In response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, Sen. Richard Moore (D-Uxbridge) filed a set of bills that the senator says will promote student safety, security and well-being, without focusing on further gun restrictions. The proposals have garnered support from a bi-partisan group of eight fellow legislators.

“Whether you are pro-gun control or pro-gun rights, we can all agree that something needs to be accomplished to avoid a repeat of the likes of Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, or Columbine from occurring again,” said Moore. “I’m committed to devoting whatever energy is necessary to ensure that our schools, and the occupants of its classrooms, are as safe as society expects they should be. Indeed, to accomplish any meaningful change we, as a community, have to discuss and debate the real issues confronting our kids and their families on a day to day basis, and do more to meet their needs.”

Moore’s legislation calls for improved emergency response plans, coordinated services for at-risk youth, additional youth protection safeguards, and greater access to emergency, life-saving equipment.

The first bill, SD1475, An Act relative to school safety, would better integrate public safety into school construction, and bolster school preparedness. To do so, the legislation requires annual walk-throughs in conjunction with medical emergency response plans; adds police chiefs, fire chiefs, Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) personnel and others onto the School Building Authority’s advisory council; and requires that after any school construction or renovation, updated plans must be submitted to local police, local fire, and MEMA in order to maintain accurate records of school layouts, and the plans must also identify points of access, utility shutoffs, and stairwells. 

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“Through this legislation, we would make sure that our emergency personnel are just as equipped as our students and administrators, said Moore. “We’re also making sure that new school construction is sensitive to public safety needs.”

The second initiative, SD1450, An Act coordinating services for at-risk youth, would align services for at-risk youth and allow, and even encourage information sharing between relevant state and local agencies. Explaining that children often suffer from several factors, ranging from physical health, mental health, and other emotional hindrances, Moore indicated that there is no one agency that is equipped to manage an individual’s case.

“When it comes to at-risk children, we should do everything we possibly can to make sure that services are timely, adequate, and coordinated,” said Moore. “By authorizing information sharing, several agencies, in unison, can collaborate to ensure that the child’s needs, and a family’s needs, are met.”

Emphasizing non-violent emergency threats that “have the capacity to lead to larger problems,” the lawmaker’s third bill, SD1487, An Act relative to the protection of youth, seeks to protect children from sexual assault by teachers, counselors or caseworkers.

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“Our statutes in this area can be vague for law enforcement regarding the age of the child and role of the counselor, and this legislation attempts to clarify what is ultimately an inappropriate relationship,” he said. “The relationship between a child and a teacher or counselor should be one of a sacred trust, and any violation of that should be criminal.”

The Senator noted that he had worked with Dudley Police Chief Steven Wojnar, and drew from his experience in health policy, to develop the second and third concepts.

Moore’s final bill, SD1460, An Act relative to access to automated external defibrillators (AEDs), would set aside the first $500,000 of any surplus revenues for the use in grants to schools and towns for the purchase of AEDs. The funds will join with a 50% local match to provide these life-saving devices in schools, as well as senior centers or senior housing complexes.

This proposal has garnered the support of the American Heart Association. The organization has gone so far as to circulate it as one of their policy priorities.

“We can never predict with 100%  certainty when emergencies will take place, or what they will entail,” he affirmed. “We can, however, promote common sense efforts to prevent tragedies in school, and shore up our ability to respond. Without such action, students, our most valuable resource, will continue to be at risk.”

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