Syracuse area schools concerned about safety after recent school shootings can look forward to some help from Washington. Congress Member John Katko today told school leaders and law enforcement officials the new federal budget bill includes more than $2 billion dollars for a range of school safety measures. Districts can apply for money to hire School Resource Officers, something Auburn Police Chief Shawn Butler said is effective in his area.
“There’s so much more than safety to these programs. It’s the mentorship. It’s the understanding and the relationships that are built between the police departments that are in the schools and the children that they affect. It’s so much more than safety,” said Butler.
Funding can also be used for expanding mental health services in schools, as well as a wide range of active shooter or anti-harassment training. West Genesee Superintendent Chris Brown said schools do some limited training with students around bullying.
“It’s going to allow us to be able to contract with outside agencies and in the Syracuse area you’ve got Syracuse Behavioral Health, Liberty Resources, Catholic Charities and the like who do great work but sometimes you can’t get to them because they’re short staffed,” said Brown. “What this grant money will help to do is probably sure up their personnel for us to be able to use, and maybe actually get some satellite offices right in our buildings.”
While nothing here directly addresses gun control, Katko said that is being enhanced on other fronts. For example, the omnibus spending bill fully funds the National Criminal Background Check System, NICS, to control gun purchases.
“The next background check system, that’s absolutely trying to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. That’s absolutely something we’re doing that. We’re talking about banning bump stocks. I mean that’s obviously gun control. There’s an awful lot we’re doing,” said Katko. “The bottom line is I don’t want to just keep assault rifles out of the hands of people that shouldn’t have them. I want to keep all guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.”
Katko plans to further work on school safety, in the wake of the shooting incidents that are hard to understand.
It's a bizarre phenomenon. Violent crime has been going down in this country, plummeting. But for some reason we have this spike in mass shootings. No one really understands why that's happening. I introduced a bill to form a commission, that's bipartisan to take a look at this holistically. Why is this happening? What if any is the mental health component? What do you do with the gun issue? Are gun laws adequate as they are or do we need more? A clean slate to look at this holistically."
He says Congress could then enact the recommendations from such a commission.
Each district has to apply for grants to cover resource officers, mentoring programs, active-shooter trainings or expand mental health counseling. Officials expect school safety funding to be available by fall.