CLEVELAND SCHOOL SHOOTING IS A WAKE-UP CALL FOR IMMEDIATE ACTION
EDISON – Senator Barbara Buono today said the Cleveland school shooting is another tragic example why New Jersey needs to implement her proposed “Safe Schools and Communities Violence Prevention and Response Plan Act,” as a comprehensive, pro-active strategy to avert mayhem in our schools.
“Eight years after the mass murder of the Columbine students, we are faced with yet another school shooting committed by a troubled boy from Cleveland,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex. “Unless we begin to address the root causes that drive individuals to commit violent acts, no amount of metal detectors, security guards or cameras will prevent such homicidal behavior.”
Senator Buono said her bill, S-989, will create a framework for detecting potential for violence in troubled students before they act out in reality.
“Unfortunately, we’ve learned the hard way that violent, uncontrolled rage can erupt anywhere,” she said.
With help from the New Jersey Association of Mental Health Agencies, Senator Buono said her bill is a “preventive and pro-active approach” to keeping children safe in schools.
Under the plan, each county superintendent of schools would employ a violence prevention specialist, whose job would be to develop a safe schools and violence prevention response plan.
“The plan would be developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, guidance counselors and child-study teams, community-mental health providers and, most importantly, parents and students,” Senator Buono said. “In a joint effort, they would help to identify students at risk of violent behavior and provide the needed support to stop youths from acting out violently at school.”
The bill would require the formation of an early intervention task force team comprised of three to four mental health specialists charged with training and assisting schools with the implementation of the violence prevention program.
“Training and assisting schools to recognize the warning signs of at-risk children make it possible for them to offer outreach assistance and support before they act out in violence,” said Senator Buono. By enhancing and expanding integrated preventive mental health services that are accessible to students and their families, we are establishing a vital link to our children in need and preventing a crisis from erupting in the process.”
In a nationwide survey sited by the Centers for Disease Control, 17% of students reported carrying a gun or knife. The State Department of Education released a report which found that the number of incidents involving guns and knives in New Jersey’s public schools have increased.
“These statistics clearly show that we need to take a proactive approach to protect children from physical violence,” explained Senator Buono.
Some schools have already developed their own security programs with the installation of metal detectors, cameras and identification cards, Senator Buono noted.
“These are important measures, but not enough to deter an individual who is determined to commit a violent act,” Senator Buono said. “The Cleveland teen that shot 4 students and killed himself entered the school with firearms through metal detectors – by then it was too late.”.
Senator Buono plans on moving the legislation when the Senate reconvenes next month. It is currently in the Senate Education Committee.