BUFFALO, NY — When it comes to your child's safety at school, districts are required, by state law, to have emergency plans in place to protect against violence. But a new state audit i s highly critical of the New York State Education Department (NYSED) for not keeping better watch - to make sure school districts are complying. some schools failed to file school safety plans -- others didn't submit plans to local law enforcement.
In the event of a school emergency, it would be the local police departments to be among the first responders at the scene. Thomas DiNapoli, New York State Comptroller, issued the report.
“And we have found too many instances - where they did not have the physical layout of the schools and where, God forbid, if they were to have to respond to a crisis situation,” DiNapoli explained.
DiNapoli’s team visited 15-school districts, including two in our region, Pembroke and Le Roy. Both failed to hold a 30-day required comment period for their plans.
“But also, for Le Roy – they didn't hold a public hearing – as far as we could tell and again with Le Roy – there was no documentation that they adopted their plans on an annual basis, which is also required, so - not to pick on that particular district or those two districts, but we need to be sure that the districts understand what their requirements are,” DiNapoli remarked.
We have reached out to both districts for comment, we're waiting to hear back from them.
DiNapoli recommends state education develop a program to keep a watch on district plans.
DiNapoli recommended SED:
• Develop a program to monitor school districts’ compliance with school safety planning requirements outlined in the law, regulations and SED guidance;
• Clarify expectations for compliance with requirements under the law, regulations and department guidance including expectations for public comment periods, public hearings, plan adoption and training requirements; and
• Prepare and submit the required annual reports to the Governor and the Legislature.
The state education responded with a statement saying in part - schools must always be safe havens and will continue to work with local law enforcement partners to improve the process.
Statement from Emily DeSantis, Education Department Spokesperson: “There is literally nothing more important than protecting our children and our schools must always be safe havens—places where students and their teachers are free to learn and to teach. We are pleased to report 99 percent of schools filed their emergency response plans with the State Police. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to improve processes. We thank the Comptroller for these recommendations and recognizing our limited staff resources as we always look to improve our practices and to help schools create safer spaces for students and a school climate that is positive and safe for all.”