District Attorney

Posted on: November 15, 2016

DA Singas Calls on Board of Regents to Upgrade School Violence Reporting System

Mineola, N.Y. – In a letter to the New York State Board of Regents, Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas today called on the Regents to upgrade the state’s widely-criticized system of tracking school violence to facilitate more timely and comprehensive public disclosure of school violence, discrimination, harassment and bullying.[1] 
“In 2016, we should not settle for a system that provides parents and policymakers with sparse, inconsistent, two year-old data regarding violence, bullying, harassment, and discrimination in our schools,” Singas wrote. “Our kids deserve safe schools in which to learn, and we all deserve accurate and timely information about violent and disruptive incidents so that we can work collaboratively to address school safety issues before they escalate.”

DA Singas provided comments in response to a proposal from the State Education Department to revamp the state’s Violent and Disruptive Incident Reporting System. [Link to State Proposal]. She criticized the new proposal for its failure to provide a framework that will facilitate timely, consistent, and comprehensive reporting of school violence, and for its failure to collect sufficiently detailed data regarding drug use, gang activity, and hate-motivated incidents.

Singas offered six recommendation to the Board of Regents:

1.      Require Real-Time Reporting of School Violence

Under the current system and the pending proposal from the Department of Education, reports of school violence are collected at once annually, at the end of each school year, and made public in large complicated spreadsheets up to two years after an incident occurred. Because old data is of little use, Singas called on the Board to develop a technology platform that facilitates real-time reporting of school violence that can be easily accessed by parents and policymakers. 

2.      Require Reporting of Gang Activity

Gang activity in a school not only imperils student’s ability to learn, but also poses a serious threat to the safety of the entire school community. When gang activity is present in a school, it should be tracked and reported as part of any new system.

3.      Track and Report Hate- and Bias-Motivated Incidents

New York elevates penalties for certain offenses when they are motivated by hate, and schools should track the prevalence of such occurrences on their campuses. While the proposed system provides a mechanism to report bullying, discrimination, and harassment based on a person's actual or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender, or sex, it appears to provide no mechanism to identify if one of these factors motivated a violent incident that would be reported in another category. 

4.      Add “Gender Identity or Expression” to List of Categories of Reportable Incidents

Studies are clear that transgender and gender non-conforming students experience heartbreakingly high rates of bullying and discrimination. By including “gender identity or expression” as a distinct classification of incident, policymakers will have more accurate data to assess the frequency of such incidents so resources can be directed to assist students. 

 5.      Require More Detailed Reporting of Drug Incidents

With a national heroin epidemic costing thousands of young lives, it is imprudent to lump all drug and alcohol incidents into a single undetailed category in public reports. A well-designed system will allow educators to note the specific substance involved, when known, as to ensure maximum transparency with parents and the public. The serious disparity in lethality between heroin use and other prohibited substances warrants this more detailed reporting.

 6.      Require Reporting of All Instances of Bullying, Harassment and Discrimination

The Department of Education has proposed requiring public reporting of only “verified” instances of bullying, harassment and discrimination, which relies on administrators’ unbridled discretion and will perpetuate the problem of disparate reporting, and widespread underreporting, by schools. With no standardized process for verifying incidents—especially those that are not witnessed by school personnel on playgrounds, buses, hallways, and locker rooms, school-to-school comparisons will continue to be unreliable, and serious school climate problems will remain undisclosed to parents and policymakers. To remedy this, all incidents of bullying, harassment, and discrimination known to or reported to school personnel should be documented and reported through VADIR.

“I am glad that the State Education Department is working to revamp how schools track and report violence and bullying, but the reforms that they have proposed are woefully inadequate and we owe it to our kids to get this right,” said DA Singas.

The public comment period for the proposed rule is open until November 19, 2017.

Proposed Rule Comments...
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