NEWFANE, NY - A plan to add resource officers to schools statewide is seemingly stalled in Albany. WNY advocates feel more threats in local districts prove it should be discussed again or that districts should adopt a tough policy against students who make such threats.
Niagara County Sheriff James Voutour says it a was a rapid no-nonsense response early Monday morning at Newfane High School, "A sixteen and seventeen-year-old student at the school were overheard by a teacher discussing plans to quote - 'shoot up' the school."
Word was quickly passed to sheriff's deputy who the school district pays for, as Voutour explains.
"It was reported the second period of the school day and they were immediately removed from their second period class. Within minutes these guys were in custody of that deputy to make sure they didn't hurt anybody," he says.
The students were charged with conspiracy. One also faces a criminal solicitation charge. They are now back with their parents after an investigation showed they had no access to guns.
Voutour says it proves the district is tough and makes a larger point in his view, "It's time our officials stepped up and gave us the ability to put an officer in every school...it needs to be done."
State Senator Patrick Gallivan of Elma, a former sheriff and state trooper, did push for state funding for grants for school resource officers which cleared the GOP lead Senate. But in the Assembly he notes,
"I'm not optimistic that they're willing to take it up...they have spoken publicly that they don't believe police officers should be in schools. And I vehemently disagree."
State Assembly Speaker Heastie is quoted as saying armed officers in schools send a wrong message with a false sense of security.
Buffalo Police, who do have a presence in schools, feel a get tough policy for any threat - including an arrest last week in the social media bomb threat at Hutch Tech - may work for some cases. Captain Jeff Rinaldo says, "Whether you did it as a joke, whether you did it to be serious, whether you did it as a prank...you will be charged accordingly and these charges carry serious penalties."
Senator Gallivan says they will try again next year. He recognizes that with 700 districts statewide, they can't cover all schools. But with changes in pension for retired police officers and parents demanding districts hire S-R-O's, he feels the tide could turn.