Friday, 29 January 2010 00:00
“For the last year, I have been working with my colleagues in Congress and the Administration to avert drastic school safety cuts the president proposed in his 2010 budget. Sadly, a few weeks ago, it was officially reported that Long Island schools will lose more than $1.5 million next year because of the elimination of the state grants portion of the Safe and Drug-Free School (SDFS) program. I am greatly concerned by these cuts and have formally asked the Administration to provide an explanation for the cuts and what they plan to do to assist our schools to provide a safe zone for our children.
In Nassau County over the last few years, there has been a 91 percent spike in arrests on heroin-related crime. We have also had a problem with gang violence. While I appreciate that the funding level for national SDFS programs has increased, the cuts to the state grants piece is a big loss to our schools. While the funding, when spread throughout the various school districts, might seem small, it is extremely important to the schools and will cause school administrators to eliminate programs. Particularly in this tough economic climate, schools are already faced with difficult choices.
Schools should be safe places for our children to learn, without the fear of physical or verbal harm. Unfortunately it sometimes can be the opposite. In recent months, the national news has reported a number of suicides that raise bullying and harassment as major school safety issues. Jennie Shapira of North Woodmere was recently named as a Semifinalist of the Intel Science Talent Search 2010. She surveyed high school students about their experiences with bullying and found some striking results. Ms. Shapira concluded that younger students, who had been through anti-bullying programs, were more likely than older students to report harassment to school authorities. These results show that instruction is vital to combating bullying and harassment in schools and promoting academic achievement.
Soon, I will be reintroducing the Safe Schools Against Violence in Education (“SAVE”) Act, which emphasizes the need for collection of law enforcement data to supplement the survey data the federal government already collects. Having said that, student surveys, like the ones collected by Ms. Shapira, can provide valuable information specifically because they come from students and I would applaud efforts to support such student surveys.
Regardless of political party, we all want our children to have a safe, drug-free school. And I will continue to work to ensure that in the future, students like Jennie, win awards for research such as creating a new computer program or discovering a new star rather than discussing the need for anti-bullying programs. We, as adults, should work together to create safe learning environments for our children.”