Reading, writing, 'rithmetic...and lockdowns. It is the new reality, said North Tonawanda Senator Rob Ortt. Beginning July 1, K-12 schools across New York State will be mandated to conduct lockdown drills every fall, as a protection against this new reality.
The measure, proposed by Ortt, was signed into law with the passing of New York State's budget.
"It's surprising that after the numerous horrific school attacks over the past two decades, sensible legislation such as this hasn't already been adopted," Ortt said. "It's vital that we prepare our school districts as best as we can in order to respond quickly and efficiently before, during and after an incident."
Currently, lockdown drills are recommended, but not required - and with so many mandates required of districts, Ortt said schools were not conducting the drills. A lockdown involves clearing the hallways, locking classroom doors, hiding students from view in a pre-designated "safe area" within the room and keeping everyone in the room until the imminent threat of danger has been resolved.
Ortt said no one wants to imagine their child involved in another Sandy Hook, but it could happen. He said it is a sign of the times in which we currently live and his measure is a common sense approach to ensuring school safety.
He also can understand a parent's concern about their children - especially younger children - being involved in an lockdown drill, like the one conducted last month at Frontier High School is Hamburg. However, he said, just like fire drills, it is important for teachers and students of all ages to be prepared for any worst-case scenario.
"It would frighten me a lot more to know that the teachers and the staff in these schools with my kid are not prepared or have not been trained in any way to protect my child," Ortt said. "You remember Sandy Hook, as I'm sure a lot of people do. That was a first-grade class."
Ortt said the drills will be executed in cooperation with local law enforcement. Instead of 12 fire drills being mandated each year, schools now will be required to hold a minimum of 8 fire drills and 4 lockdown drills annually. Ortt said there is no expected added financial burden on school districts for the additional mandate.