Written by Karen Gellender Friday, 28 December 2012 00:00
Weeks after the tragic Connecticut school shooting that left 20 children and 6 adults dead, what to do differently going forward to prevent similar shootings from happening in the future is still the hot topic on everyone’s lips. School board meetings throughout the area over the past few weeks were filled with parents requesting tighter security, while other parents questioned the value of extra security cameras and locks, instead suggesting stronger character education programs. Meanwhile, area lawmakers and other community leaders are beginning to attempt to address these issues with the tools available to them.
For Nassau County Legislator Judy Jacobs, the best way to make a difference going forward is to make sure that funding for mental health services in Nassau County is protected.
“It is totally inexcusable that in the 2013 [county] budget, the mental health contractual services are decreasing by $3.9 million, or 45.2 percent,” said Jacobs. “On the county level our hands are tied in passing gun laws but for mental health, we can be leaders. This cut does not show leadership.”
Jacobs further told Anton Newspapers that there seemed to be agreement on both sides of the aisle when she raised this point at the legislative meeting on Monday, Dec. 17. She has also sent a letter to this effect to County Executive Edward Mangano.
“It is my strong belief that mental health services and the ability to recognize the need for mental health services for individuals in our society is equal to the passage of stricter gun laws. We need both but certainly we should not be cutting any services we had,” added Jacobs.
Meanwhile, similar to administrators at Syosset, Jericho, Plainview, and many other school districts who spoke to Anton Newspapers last week, Stephen H. Watters, headmaster of The Green Vale School in Old Brookville, reassured parents that security procedures were already strong and may be strengthened further. “Green Vale consistently reviews its safety and security procedures, works closely with the Old Brookville police and fire departments, has security cameras focused on all entrances, and employs two full-time security guards who are retired police officers,” said Watters.
“In light of this horrific event, we will conduct a systematic review of all safety protocols and implement appropriate changes to maintain our joyful and protected learning environment, one where fear and evil are kept at bay.”
While debates over security, mental health and gun control prompted by Newtown are bound to continue for some time, many think this is a good time to redouble our efforts in the pursuit of something thoroughly non-controversial: making sure young people have positive influences in their lives. Bob Eslick of Old Bethpage, co-founder of the charity Kids Helping Kids, believes that encouraging more young people to become involved with philanthropic projects could help stem the tide of violence.
“Kids need consistent positive reinforcement and with so many parents divorced, working long hours just to survive and make ends meet…if kids had their own peer groups to work together, to help others in need, things like this [shooting] wouldn’t even be considered—they would be too busy helping others,” said Eslick.