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Secure Our Schools Act sits idle

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by Krystal Paco

Guam - It was the first bill introduced this year and would allow close to $1.3 million in Section 30 funds to purchase school surveillance equipment, but the Secure Our Schools Act of 2013 has sat idle since it was signed into public law over a month ago.

It was legislation aimed to deter crime on campuses by providing procurement, installation, and maintenance of surveillance equipment for public schools but according to the Department of Education, they can't move forward without assessing each of the 40 campuses for their individual security needs. DOE deputy superintendent Rob Malay says they'll need to seek assistance from entities that specialize in security and technology, something not available in house but necessary to proceed.

He said, "It's a responsible thing to do to make an assessment that you're procuring for what you need not just things that you don't need, so it's a responsible thing and we've got to move forward and reach out to other agencies to see how we can best proceed to getting this assessment completed."

Malay says it won't be easy. After all, schools have varying needs depending on the campus floor plan. "With 40 different campuses we're looking at a number of different layouts mind you some schools when they were built in relatively a similar time frame have similar floor plans but for the most part we're looking at schools that were built from as early as the 1950s up until the most recent one which is JFK, he said.

This is news to Speaker Judi Won Pat. As co-author of the legislation with Senator Tina Muna Barnes, she says DOE is misinterpreting the provision, an issue she will address with DOE superintendent Jon Fernandez immediately. As a former principal, she vouches that administrators know their schools best. She said, "He can really ask all the school principals because they know where their schools are vandalized which parts of their schools are blindsided dark spots which areas are the entrees and exits where are the kids and anyone coming into the schools all the principals basically know that," she said.

Won Pat hopes to move forward with the purchase and installation of surveillance equipment for schools as early as the summer months when classes are out and campuses prone to breakins.

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