Legislature Debates School Safety Deputy Commissioner

By Cooper Drummond

GOSHEN – Last Thursday, the Orange County Legislature held its monthly legislative session. The meeting, which lasted for more than two hours, covered 46 agenda items. A lot of that time was centered on discourse between legislators involving a bill that would attempt to make public schools safer.

The meeting’s draft resolution states that it would be, “an act amending the appropriate Orange County employment schedules to create ‘deputy commissioner of emergency services – school safety’ at the Orange County Department of Emergency Services.”

The legislation was sponsored by Assembly members James O’Donnell of the 21st District and Kevindaryán Luján of the Fourth District, who are both a part of the Personnel and Compensation Committee.

The vote was on whether to add the amendment into the law or send it back to the committee.

Safety in public schools in the United States has been a contentious debate this year. Of note, there was an elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas in May that killed 21 people and left 19 others injured.

“I can make the argument there is a dire need for this position right now. Schools have already opened,” said O’Donnell.

The legislators who oppose the bill also admit that school safety is an issue. However, they do have issues with how the bill would be implemented.

“Although school safety, as important as it is, we have a sheriff’s office which is top notch, that already works with all of the schools that want to have them, have worked throughout the county,” said Michael Paduch who represents the 19th District.

Luján, despite being one of the legislators who proposed the bill said, “it is worth having a greater discussion,” and he “does not want a duplication of services.”

O’Donnell later disagreed, that this is too pressing of an issue to send the bill back to the committee.

“I understand legislator O’Donnell’s imperative for urgency . . . however, it is imperative, given what happened at Uvalde, that we get this exactly right,” said Laurie Tautel, who represents the 14th District. “I would hate to see us act in fear and in haste and get this wrong.”

The legislators voted 11 to eight to send the bill back to the committee.

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