New York schools that buy metal detectors, like this one at a Cleveland school, would have increased reimbursement rates under the state's tougher gun laws passed last month. / Jamie-Andrea Yanak, AP
ALBANY, N.Y. - New York school districts are buying new security systems after the Newtown, Conn., shootings and taking advantage of money the state is offering through its new controversial gun-control law.
The law, adopted Jan. 15, was the first enacted since Dec. 14 when a gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School, killing 20 students, mostly first-graders. In all, 28 people died that day.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the NY-SAFE Act the toughest in the nation because it expanded the state's assault weapons ban and added tougher gun regulations.
"Schools are putting in keyless entry systems. They're locking all the doors and making it so you can only get in though one door, the main entrance, and there would be a surveillance camera attached to that door," said Dave Albert, spokesman for the state School Boards Association.
Superintendent Bernard Pierorazio in Yonkers, N.Y., said his suburban New York district already is equipped with single entrances, buzzer systems and surveillance cameras, as well as security staff for the larger schools. But he plans to add cameras in entrance hallways.
"We have over 400 - over 500 - cameras within the district now, so we're well monitored," he said. "It's just a matter of going the extra step further."
Albert said cost probably won't deter districts from purchasing the equipment eligible for partial reimbursement under the law. It covers items such as stationary metal detectors, security cameras and safety devices for electronically operated partitions.
Poorer school districts could receive as much as 80% or 90% reimbursement for the items, based on the way the state doles out building aid.
Since the Connecticut shooting, New York superintendents have said they're reviewing their safety plans and are open to making changes despite a property-tax cap and growing operational costs.
"This is one of those areas that schools are going to move forward with because it's just too important," Albert said. "And if installing a security camera or a keyless entrance system is something that is going to improve safety, they're going to go ahead and do that."
School safety teams also will review districts' safety plans and look at more than equipment.
"I think it's both about making sure that schools are taking the steps necessary to secure the building, but it's also about â?¦ focusing on the mental health needs of students," said John King, New York state education commissioner.
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