Usually when the state comptroller’s office issues an audit criticizing the practices of a school district or municipality on some kind of budget or management matter, it details the specific problems it found with each government entity.
But in its new audit about school safety procedures, it didn’t do that.
Instead, it issued a list of the types of safety issues it found among the districts, highlighted the percentage of districts exhibiting one or more of the shortcomings it found, and offered recommendations for improvement.
One reason for the lack of detail in this report is that the comptroller didn’t want to publicly expose to criminals the exact vulnerabilities in each of the districts it looked at, including Schenectady. That’s reasonable. School districts in the audit each got confidential report cards on their progress.
But we suspect this report —which only included 19 of the state’s 732 school districts — was meant more to provide a “look in the mirror” moment for all the districts in New York and the 2.6 million students in grades K-12 they are responsible for teaching and protecting.
As we head into another school year (and it’s coming fast, judging from all the “back to school” sales going on), school districts need to use what’s left of the summer break to make sure they’re doing all they can to protect the kids and to ensure they’re complying with all state rules and procedures.
The report found that none of the 19 schools surveyed met even minimum planning or training requirements set forth by the state Education Department. Two districts of the 19 didn’t have districtwide safety plans in place, while the other 17 had incomplete plans.
Most schools hadn’t appointed a chief emergency officer or identified the duties of this position, as mandated. Each district needs a go-to person to manage all of the safety measures. Most don’t.
And most districts in the report didn’t detail specific information about how they would work with law enforcement, a key relationship when it comes to stopping an active shooter or responding to another emergency.
Surely, these 19 districts are not alone in falling short on the requirements.
School boards are required to adopt safety plans by Sept. 1, which includes a 30-day public comment period.
For districts that are far behind and that simply can’t get people together to prepare their plans in the next month, that’s an impossible deadline to meet.
What all districts in the area and the state should do now is use this report to evaluate where they are in the safety process and make it a priority to comply.
This isn’t about feeding the appetite of some bureaucracy. It’s about having the procedures and mechanisms in place to protect our children from harm.
If you’re a district that’s fallen behind, waste no time in catching up.