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Senator Akshar hosts school safety summit with local school officials, law enforcement

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. - In the wake of the recent school shooting in Florida, State Senator Fred Akshar held a meeting with school officials and members of law enforcement Monday to discuss school safety.

A School Safety Summit was held at the State Office Building that included well over two dozen local school superintendents, principals, chiefs of police and sheriffs from Broome, Tioga, Chenango, and Delaware Counties.

The meeting lasted about two hours and focused on safety plans already in place, safety infrastructure upgrades, barriers to safety, and mental health services provided in schools.

One issue that came up was a massive delay on money that's earmarked for local school districts to upgrade safety features at their buildings.

"I was very disappointed to hear about the Smart School Bond Act money taking so long to get out the door.  That's something I'll be bringing back to Albany tomorrow.  There's no reason why it should take 18, 20, or 24 months for money that was bonded four years ago.  That money should go out the door," said Akshar.

Suzanne McLeod is the Union-Endicott Schools Superintendent.

She and other superintendents talked about a possible change to HIPAA laws that would allow emergency responders and educators to share information if a student has been arrested or taken to the hospital for a mental health evaluation in order to help that student seek services while keeping other students safe.

"Sometimes, when we see a student that has mental health needs, anger issues or substance abuse issues, it would be beneficial if someone in a leadership position could have the ability to mandate some counseling," said McLeod.

For example, if a student was taken to the Mental Health Crisis Center, or C-PEP, law enforcement could share that information with administrators so they are aware of that situation.

Police Chief Joe Zikuski made a point to say on some occasions, a student is taken to C-PEP only to return to school the next day with no wrap-around service or follow-up.

Akshar says plans to hear from students and teachers at another forum in the near future.

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