The frequency of school shootings across the country has prompted school districts to take immediate action to provide teachers, administrators, and students a variety of tools to protect themselves in the event of an incident.
Suffolk County is no exception, and that is why we have made it a priority to partner with school districts to enhance their own security plans.
One of these unique partnerships is through our Rapid Response Project. Under the new initiative, Suffolk would provide teachers and administrators access to the Rave Panic Button, a school safety mobile application that quickly alerts law enforcement and first responders of an active shooter situation or emergency. With the click of a button on any smartphone device, details of an emergency situation would be sent through a notification to other staff members in the building, alerting teachers and staff to take quick protective action.
During a medical emergency, the system also alerts first responders and staff with specific training such as CPR or AED certifications, so that they can provide care until an ambulance arrives on scene. We know that seconds and minutes can mean the critical difference between life and death.
However, politics is now preventing the implementation of this common sense measure. Minority Leader Tom Cilmi (R-East Islip) and the Republican Caucus are holding up funding for the program. Their excuse is nothing short of bizarre and ill informed. They claim they “had no choice” because the capital bond for this project was tied to other projects.
The problem with their argument is threefold. First, virtually every other county in New York State votes on capital bond projects this way. It is more efficient and in line with best practices. Second, every member of the legislature, including the Republican holdouts, already voted to authorize the project. And finally, there are some things that should never be held up by politics. School safety is at the top of the list.
We owe it to Suffolk children, teachers and families to ensure they feel safe when entering a school building each and every day. Suffolk residents deserve better. Enough with the political games and trivial issues. Now is the time to take action and uphold our duty to keep our kids safe.
Steve Bellone is the Suffolk County executive