DA to help schools investigate critical incidents

Posted at 2:30 PM, Mar 20, 2018

The Erie County District Attorney's Office is working to help school districts investigate critical incidents involving schools and their students.

The idea was presented at the 15th Annual Safe Schools Initiative Seminar at the University at Buffalo on Tuesday.

Representatives from local school districts attended the seminar with the goals of enhancing collaboration, addressing mental health issues in schools, and learning how to de-escalate crises and recover from school tragedies.

The seminar and the proposal follow the recent tragedy at Stoneman Douglas High School, in Florida, where a gunman opened fire, killing 17 people.

Since then, numerous threats have been reported at school districts throughout Western New York, and those schools need to be prepared to respond to a critical incident should one occur.

The District Attorney's Office defines a critical incident as "any circumstance that presents a threat of harm to the students, staff, or property of a school, or where harm has been done." Those incidents can take many forms, from verbal statements or social media posts threatening harm, to someone acquiring a harmful appliance or weapon and bringing them to campus, to actually carrying out a harmful act.

To be prepared should one of those critical incidents occur, the District Attorney's Office would like to assign an Assistant District Attorney to act as a liaison between the school district and the District Attorney's Office. Together, they would develop protocol for critical incident response, including securing physical evidence, preserving digital evidence, obtaining search warrants, and conducting interviews with witnesses and suspects after the critical incident occurs.

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