MILFORD, Mass. – In the wake of the Newtown, Conn. tragedy in December, state Sen. Richard Moore (D-Uxbridge) recently filed bills intended to promote student safety, security and well-being.
“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,” Moore said.
“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," Moore said.
“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,” he said.
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 proposals have received support from a bipartisan group of eight legislators, according to Moore.
The first bill requires annual school walk-throughs in conjunction with medical emergency response plans; and it adds police chiefs, fire chiefs, Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) personnel and others onto the School Building Authority’s advisory council.
The bill also requires that after any school construction or renovation, updated plans must be submitted to local police, fire and MEMA to maintain accurate records of school layouts.
“Through this legislation, we would make sure that our emergency personnel are just as equipped as our students and administrators,” Moore said. “We’re also making sure that new school construction is sensitive to public safety needs.”
The second bill would align services for at-risk youth and allow information sharing between relevant state and local agencies.
“When it comes to at-risk children, we should do everything we possibly can to make sure that services are timely, adequate and coordinated,” Moore said. “By authorizing information sharing, several agencies, in unison, can collaborate to ensure that the child’s needs, and a family’s needs, are met.”
In addition, the third bill attempts to protect children from sexual assault by teachers, counselors or caseworkers.
“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,” Moore 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.”
Moore’s final bill would set aside the first $500,000 of any surplus revenues for the use in grants to schools and towns for the purchase of automated external defibrillators (AEDs). The funds will join with a 50 percent local match to provide the lifesaving devices in schools, as well as at senior centers or senior housing complexes.
“We can never predict with 100 percent certainty when emergencies will take place, or what they will entail,” Moore said.
“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.”