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Comptroller: Education Department Needs To Do More To Ensure Safety Planning In NY Schools

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A recent audit by the New York State Comptroller’s Office concluded that the State Education Department (SED) needs to improve its efforts to ensure school districts are following state requirements for school safety planning.

The audit found the Department did not do enough to ensure the districts were abiding to the Safe Schools Against Violence in Education Act (2000).

For instance, many of the districts could not demonstrate they had adopted annual safety plans in accordance with SED guidance, held public hearings on the plans, appointed some required personnel to district-wide safety teams or trained employees on the plans.

“Horrific school shootings across the country show the urgent need for schools to remain vigilant against threats to student and teacher safety,” DiNapoli said. “New York schools are required to develop and regularly review safety plans as part of the SAVE Act. The State Education Department needs more staff and resources to help make sure those plans are being developed and sound. I urge the state Legislature to look at this issue. We don’t want to nickel and dime the safety of our children.”

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.

SED officials generally agreed with the audit recommendations and indicated they will act to address them.

SED was awarded a five-year School Emergency Management Grant from the U.S. Department of Education in September 2018 and expects to use a portion of the funds to hire a full-time staff person to improve its oversight of emergency response planning requirements.

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