By Rob Nikolewski │ New Mexico Watchdog
SANTA FE, N.M. — On the heels of a middle school shooting in Roswell that left one student critically injured and another in satisfactory condition, state Rep. Sandra Jeff, D-Crownpoint, says she will reintroduce a bill aimed at beefing up security in New Mexico public schools.
“We have to take precautions and make sure things like this don’t happen,” Jeff told New Mexico Watchdog on Wednesday.
Last year, Jeff and state Sen. Benny Shendo Jr., D-Jemez Pueblo, sponsored a bill calling for $1.5 million to establish a security infrastructure fund that included creating a visual identity system for students and parents. The bill passed unanimously through the House Education Committee but died in the House Appropriations and Finance Committee.
Jeff said she plans to file a new bill for the upcoming 30-day session that begins Tuesday calling for additional security measures, such as installing metal detectors at school entrances and establishing protocols to make sure doors to classrooms are locked.
Jeff said the new legislation will call for more money than last year’s bill, but she wouldn’t say how much more.
“It’s unfortunate, but that’s the world we live in,” said Jeff, who added that she plans on meeting with Gov. Susana Martinez and Public Education Department Secretary-Designate Hanna Skandera to win their support.
“A lot of rural communities don’t even have a security plan,” Jeff said.
“I think (Jeff’s) motives are correct,” Espinoza told New Mexico Watchdog in a telephone interview. “We want to protect our children. But my number one concern is that when a crisis so devastating as this occurs, too many times legislators jump up right away and pass bills. I’d really like to take some time and think about it. My first impression is that it needs to be done by the local school boards, and they can do what’s best for their individual schools.”
Jeff said she plans to pre-filing her bill in the coming days.
The shooting occurred about 8 a.m. Tuesday. According to reports, a 12-year-old boy at Berrendo Middle School sneaked a 20-gauge shotgun onto school grounds and opened fire in a gymnasium filled with about 500 students before obeying a teacher who told him to put the gun down.
An 11-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl were airlifted to Lubbock, Texas for treatment. The 11-year-old remained in critical condition on Wednesday, while the 13-year-old was upgraded from serious to satisfactory condition.
The alleged shooter was taken to a psychiatric hospital in Albuquerque.
“We do not know all the details about this child,” Espinoza said. “But just like in 9/11, this community has come together. There is no blame going around. We’re coming together in prayer for the child and the children who were hurt.”
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