As students across New York begin another school year, a new law has been signed to keep them safe.
The legislation, sponsored by Assemblywoman Sandy Galef and Senator Sue Serino, was introduced after an incident at the Ossining Union Free School District in May 2017. A school official was notified by an anonymous source that one of the janitors working at the Brookside Elementary School was previously arrested in 2016 and convicted of raping a minor in Dutchess County.
The janitor was 54-year-old Samuel Campbell, a resident of Poughkeepsie. Campbell was employed in the district since 1998, and had been working the day shift, which put him in direct contact with the children in the school district.
Galef, D-Ossining, said the main focus behind this legislation is the safety of the students everywhere in New York.
“We need to do everything we can to protect our children,” Galef said. “With this new law, we are able to give local school districts and law enforcement all the tools available to make sure the community is notified of anything that could harm our children.”
The bill (S.6597-b/A.8382-b) was drafted to close a dangerous loophole that existed prior. Before the new law, authorities were not required to notify schools if one of their employees was arrested, if that employee was hired before 2001.
The bill amends the state Education Law and requires local law enforcement to immediately notify school superintendents of an indictment alleging any sex offense by an employee — regardless of the year the employee was hired — so that schools may take immediate and appropriate action to ensure that these individuals do not have any contact with students.
Galef and Serino drafted the bill when the Campbell incident was brought to their attention, hoping to ensure this could not happen again in a New York school district.
The two lawmakers met with school officials and members of the Ossining PTA and worked with the concerned parents and local law enforcement to write and pass their bill in the interest of keeping the children of the community safe.
“No one who has ever harmed a child should ever have the opportunity to work in our schools,” says Serino. “While the situation that occurred in Ossining is abhorrent, it spurred the school district, the community, and the state into immediate action to successfully close a potentially dangerous loophole in our law.”
The law was signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on August 24 and took effect immediately.
“We’re grateful for the work of the Assemblywoman Galef and Senator Serino in sponsoring this critical piece of legislation,” says Chief Kevin Sylvester of the Ossining Police Department. “While we strive to maintain clear lines of communication with our school district, this law creates yet another opportunity to increase the safety of students across our state.”