State Rep. James Arciero and Republican candidate for state Representative Kathy Lynch. COURTESY PHOTOS

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: State Representative Candidates Weigh In on School Safety and Mental Health Issues

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In an effort to help voters decide which candidate to select in the Nov. 6 election, WestfordCAT News is asking a question each week of those candidates who will represent Westford. The responses below come from state Rep. James Arciero, a Westford Democrat and the incumbent and Republican candidate  Kathy Lynch. The two are vying for the Second Middlesex District seat, consisting of  
QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Communities across the country are struggling for answers on how to make schools safer and how to protect the mental health of students. Finding the funds to back these efforts is a challenge. In Westford, the Town and School Safety Task Force proposed on Oct. 9 an expenditure of $200K toward consultation on what could be done to improve safety inside school buildings. Town Meeting approved the sum on Oct. 15. That dollar amount does not include the cost of any construction work to be done. Do you have thoughts on how communities like Westford could fund these efforts? Should federal dollars be applied? If so, how could that happen and how quickly could it happen?

 

James Arciero. COURTESY PHOTO

James Arciero. COURTESY PHOTO

 

JAMES ARCIERO – Westford Democrat

School safety has become a high priority given the recent increased attacks on schools and other public places. I have filed legislation which would create a Special Commission on Enhanced School Safety to bring leaders from education, public safety and government together to make recommendations on school safety.  This commission would review securing school entrances, enhanced telecommunications between school administration and public safety agencies, video monitoring of classrooms, bullet-proof windows, temporary door locking safety devices, and the use of the ALICE (Alert-Lockdown-Inform-Counter-Evacuate) program.

I have also advocated for the ability of schools to use retired police officers to serve as School Resource Officers, given their level of training and experience. This past week, the House Ways and Means Committee, of which I am a member, voted to release a bill which contained funding of $7.5 million for public safety infrastructure improvements and funding of $7.5 for mental and behavioral health services for students.

I commend the Westford School Safety Task Force on their efforts on this important education and public safety issue, and will look forward to working with them and our next congressperson on accessing state and federal funding for these initiatives in the future.

Kathy Lynch. COURTESY PHOTO

Kathy Lynch. COURTESY PHOTO

KATHY LYNCH – Westford Republican

As a district citizen and parent of two school-age children, I am very concerned about the safety of our children in the public schools. We all want our children to be safe.

Many of our municipality issues can be solved by returning more of the tax dollars we send to Beacon Hill back to us in local aid, to be spent on issues such as school safety. I will always vote to support local aid to cities and towns, and to reduce our taxes so we keep more money at the local level. I applaud Westford for putting together the Town and Safety Task Force in their efforts to improve safety in an expedient manner.

I would work collaboratively with appropriate state agencies such as The Executive Office of Public Safety and Security and, in particular, the Massachusetts State Police to support local communities in their efforts to secure schools. I would also work to increase grant programs through the Massachusetts School Building Authority to support innovative security improvements.

Finally, I would work to create public-private partnerships to engage the local business community to help develop solutions to school safety issues, so the burden is not 100 percent on the taxpayer.