Op-Ed: Felder: It’s The Kids… Stupid!


Recently, like in an all- too -often recurring nightmare, a deranged shooter killed 8 kids, 2 teachers and injured 13 more while they were attending school in Santa Fe. I ask you, have we been shaken out of our unforgivable complacency yet or are we growing more accustomed to this ongoing horror, so long as it’s not in our own backyard?

As of now, our schools still stand unprotected, vulnerable and exposed and we should all be taking a cold, hard look at the measures we must take to keep our children safe. But, unfortunately, it’s business as usual at City Hall where the Mayor’s burgeoning budget has money for everything except safeguarding our schools and it’s politics as usual in NYC where their first feeble response is to circulate a petition AGAINST increasing security.

Sen. Simcha Felder

In this age of miscommunication fueled by split second messaging and the chaos of twitter, it seems some clarification may be in order.

Almost two years ago, I introduced two bills that aim to protect our children from school shootings.   

The first piece of legislation would station a trained, armed police officer in front of every school as a highly visible, lethal deterrent to any terrorists or murderers. This armed-guard would serve the singular purpose of securing the entrance, providing safety and security to the students and teachers inside. Protecting students – not policing students – as some would have you believe.

Why are our children, our most precious resource and link to the future, treated as though they are less valuable than our money? Every Brink’s truck has two armed, well-trained guards safeguarding the cash while our schools, housing thousands of defenseless children, have a brigade of School Safety Officers armed with – cellphones!

I am not making light of such a serious topic, merely pointing out how ludicrous is our current school security situation. After calling for backup, the school safety officer has no way to neutralize the threat a homicidal maniac poses to life and limb every minute until help arrives.

While comforting and well-intentioned, these officers don’t stand a chance in the event of an attack. By the time they call 911, and the police respond, violence and bloodshed will have already occurred.

The experts agree. PBA President Patrick J. Lynch said, “Each attack on a school makes it clearer that we need a sufficient number of fully trained and equipped police officers positioned to respond immediately and neutralize the threat. In active shooter incidents, every passing minute means further loss of life.”

We have all lived to see with our own eyes the horrific devastation that terrorism, rampant evil and wanton violence have created. To bury our heads in the sands of self-delusion is to play into the very hands of murderers and terrorists. We must remain vigilant.

In a letter to Mayor de Blasio dated June 6, 2017, I requested that he mandate both armed police guarding every school entrance and active shooter drills in all NYC schools. Unfortunately, I was denied! The primary reason given was that “it is an unwarranted expense and thus unnecessary.”

With tens of millions of dollars wasted annually on nonsense, why are we willing to sacrifice our precious children on the altar of austerity? This is where we draw the line?

Who will tell a grieving parent that their child just wasn’t worth it?

The latest tragedy in Santa Fe is another wake up call. An armed guard at that school courageously confronted the gunman and took fire intended for students as he held violence at bay. There will soon be a full report and there will be lessons to learn, but will we learn them? Or, will we continue to allow the senseless, brutal murder of innocent children and teachers while we bury the story that armed guards save lives in a basket of undiscussables.

We should be planning improved security for the coming school year, now. Instead, we have misguided legislators and community leaders who still refuse to recognize the urgent need to secure our schools.

To those whose answer is increased mental health, I point them to ThriveNYC.  I strongly support the Mayor’s mental health initiative. It is a far-reaching plan that aims to do many good things. It is not, however, a security plan!

My second legislative proposal requires schools to conduct active shooter emergency drills regularly.  Schools have been practicing fire drills for years. When was the last time you heard of a tragic school fire? We must revise and update our emergency response plans to address these dire, new threats.

I am calling, once again, on all of us to come together and make the necessary changes and improvements in school security and student/ personnel training and preparedness with utmost urgency… before the next teardrop falls.

We are all well-intentioned, but we are failing to act. If even one more child is lost than by our mere inaction we are all complicit in the crime.

State Senator Simcha Felder represent the 17th Senate District which encompasses the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Midwood, Flatbush, Borough Park, Kensington, Sunset Park, Madison and Bensonhurst.