The Scarsdale School Board voted unanimously on Oct. 21 to approve the 2019-20 districtwide safety and emergency management plan effective Sept. 1. The plan was updated in June and conditionally approved at the board meeting on Sept. 23.
“One of the requirements of the state legislation that was passed back in 2000 was for school districts in New York State to have districtwide safety plans,” said Chief of Safety, Security and Emergency Management Michael Spedaliere at a Sept. 9 public hearing.
The plan outlines the district’s basic guidelines for dealing with any event that could cause harm to school patrons or disrupt the educational process.
“This is really a base plan … and we’d like to make this more robust,” said Assistant Superintendent for Business Stuart Mattey at the Sept. 9 public hearing. “I think what we’d like to do is [have this plan be] the go-to document for parents or employees or community members.”
No one spoke at the public hearing on Sept. 9. According to Mattey, nobody relayed thoughts about the security plan during the 30-day comment period.
Memos of understanding with Summit Security and Altaris — the district’s safety and security consultants — were added to the districtwide plan which clarified that both security consultants had no involvement in student discipline.
In order to reduce risk, the plan calls for various intervention strategies to get ahead of potential incidents with annual training for school safety officers and de-escalation, nonviolent conflict resolution and peer mediation safety training for school staff. The plan states that the district could also provide de-escalation training to other staff on an annual basis and that each building will have staff trained in these facets.
According Spedaliere, faculty in the building emergency response teams (BERT) will be participating in an upcoming training to review the incident command system and assign individuals with positions in case an emergency occurs.
For reporting threats or acts of violence, the district outlines a procedure, which instructs students to report incidences to staff members, who will then report directly to administration for investigation.
For early detection of potentially dangerous behavior, the plan relies heavily on providing the district’s code of conduct to all students and new employees.
The plan also states that district students in all grade levels will participate in instruction guided by evidence-based violence prevention and intervention programs with a secondary focus on the health department’s incorporation of emotional health and the impact of drugs and alcohol on responsible decision-making.
Evacuation and lockdown drills must be conducted 12 times a year, with the first eight drills conducted prior to Dec. 31. Eight of the drills must be evacuation and four must be lockdown.
Spedaliere told the school board the district has conducted 26 fire drills, five lockdown drills, two evacuation drills and seven bus drills.
Mattey said the district has completed 47 security-related improvement projects and is currently in the process of improving the district’s lockdown system. When asked what improvements were planned, Mattey told the Inquirer he would not go into detail on the planned improvements citing confidentiality concerns.
Joey Silberfein, president of Scarsdale’s PT Council, said at the school board meeting that the PT Council was disappointed to hear parents would not be allowed to participate in the school’s Safety, Security and Emergency Management (SSEM) Projects Committee.
“The committee, we understand, will be making critical decisions as to what safety and security measures to implement and how to prioritize that implementation of those measures in our schools,” she said. “We have yet to hear a compelling reason to justify excluding parents who represent over half the users of the district buildings on such a committee.”
Hagerman said school district representatives had met with PT Council representatives on Oct. 21 to discuss the inclusion of parents on the committee.
According to the security plan, after receiving information from the incident commander on the scene of an emergency, an email is to be sent out from the superintendent’s office to all administrators and administrative offices alerting them to the nature of the incident.
The district will then use its mass communication system to inform parents, guardians or emergency contacts as provided by residents. The plan states, “Every effort will be made to contact parents and the general public once the situation has stabilized.”
Mattey said parents, staff and high school students would receive an emergency test message Tuesday, Oct. 29, at 4 p.m.
“This will be a test message regarding any type of emergency ... communication,” said Mattey at the board meeting.
Superintendent Thomas Hagerman said the text messages would be limited to 160 characters. “It’s very truncated in terms of what you can send,” he said. “Most often you’re going to get something that says ‘check your email.’”
In the event of a violent incident or an early dismissal of students, the plan states that every effort would be made to notify parents.
If a student is involved in any violent situation — or an implied or direct threat of violence — against themselves, the student’s parent will be contacted as soon as practicable.