After tragedies, Beacon Hill debates statewide window guard requirement

BOSTON — Preventing young children from falling out windows is the goal of a new bill on Beacon Hill.

The bill is in memory of Zella-Ray Martin. She was only 2 years old when she fell from the fourth floor of a relative's home in Fitchburg. A newly proposed bill would require window guards above the second floor of any building where a child under 6 years old is living.

"Zella-Ray's brother, Bellamy, will never know her or the love she had for him," relative Amie Martin told Boston 25 News. "He looks and acts so much like her, and our hearts are so broken.”

The family is still struggling with the tragic loss. Zella-Ray's father had complained about the problem, fearing this exact outcome but nothing was done.

Children falling from windows has been a problem for years in Massachusetts, leading cities like Boston to implement campaigns to educate people and provide low-cost window guards where they’re needed.

Theresa Teixeira runs Boston's injury prevention program, she explained to lawmakers how the window guards would work.

"On the windows, there are locks -- these little, silver buttons -- you just press both of them at the same time," she said. "Pull it out and it releases in a few seconds. And to reinstall it you do virtually the same thing."

A new bill introduced by Rep. Colleen Garry (D-Dracut) seeks to have guards put on that would be removable during emergencies. Landlords would assume costs for the guards, which can run up to around $75.

Skip Schloming, a landlord and executive with the Small Property Owners Association, is concerned with the possibility of window guards being mandated.

"Will this take priority? Especially in lower-income housing over some other needed repair or improvement to make the housing safe in other ways?” he asked.

Garry's bill would call for an educational program through the Department of Public Health to build awareness for parents and families.

Senator Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford) and Rep. James O’Day (D-Worcester) are also proposing bills. There is optimism that something can get done this session, but Garry says there’s a lot of work left to do.