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Comptroller Says New York's Education Department Should Improve School Safety Plans

ROCHESTER, NY (WXXI) - An auditby New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli says the New York State Education Department needs to improve its efforts to ensure school districts are following state requirements for school safety planning.

Mark Johnson, spokesperson for the state comptroller says the audit found that the New York State Education Department did not do enough to make certain that the requirements under the Safe Schools Against Violence Act (SAVE), were being met by school districts.

"School districts could not show that they had adopted annual safety plans, some schools had not held public hearings on the plans, appointed required personnel to develop the safety plans or trained employees on the procedures," Johnson said.

The SAVE Act was enacted in 2000, and requires school districts to establish a code of conduct, mandates training and instruction for preventing and responding to incidents of school violence, an established a uniform system for reporting violent incidents.

Auditors examined 15 school districts from September of 2016 to September 2018, including the Rochester City School District.
Rochester was one of 12 School Districts who did not have evidence of the required 30-day comment period for their district plan, and one of eight school districts that did not have evidence that they adopted their plans annually, according to the comptroller's office.

Johnson says there is no reason to worry, that they just want to make sure the comptroller’s office is doing everything it can and hopes the state education department will step in. He says the audit found that were only two part-time employees that devoted time to these issues.

"Without strong direction or oversight from the state education department, the school districts will likely continue to fall short of these requirements and that possibly puts lives at risk," Johnson said.

Emily DeSantis, a spokesperson for the state education department responded to the audit saying, “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.”

She adds, “There is literally nothing more important than protecting our children and our schools must always be safe havens, and that 99 percent of schools have filed their emergency response plans with the State Police."