Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas says a plan to upgrade the state’s system for reporting school violence should include gang incidents separately, as well as acts against gender identity and expression, and publish the data no later than a month after events occur.
The Board of Regents in September proposed a series of changes to the state’s Violent and Disruptive Incident Reporting system that were intended to make it easier to report violent crimes.
Singas, in a letter to the board dated Nov. 15, says she acknowledges the proposal is “one piece of reform.” However, the board has an opportunity to implement an overhaul of the often-criticized system, she said.
“New York should lead by requiring transparent, real-time reporting of school violence and disruptive incidents,” Singas wrote in the letter.
The goal is “designing a better system that will allow educators and administrators to know exactly what the issues are,” Singas said in an interview Tuesday. “Is that a school plagued by gang violence or heroin use?”
She added that school officials shouldn’t be required to “wait until the end of the year to tell us what’s going on.”
Jonathan Burman, a spokesman for the state Department of Education, said ,“There is literally nothing more important than protecting our children. It’s impossible for a child to focus on learning if she goes to school in fear each day. The proposed changes are intended to make the process of reporting violent and disruptive acts less complicated and to place a greater emphasis on violent offenses. The department will carefully review and consider all of the public comments received.”
Roger Tilles of Great Neck, Long Island’s representative to the Board of Regents, said in a statement, “We have been well aware of the safety in schools issues which is why last month we moved to create stronger controls. I thank the District Attorney for highlighting this issue.”
Singas also proposed that gang-related incidents be immediately reported in the state database. Hate and bias incidents also should be reflected separately in the data. Drug incidents, she added, should be broken down by substance.
Singas also called on the board to add “gender identity or expression” to the list of categories of reportable material incidents of harassment, bullying and discrimination.
Charles Russo, president of the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association and superintendent of the East Moriches School District, said reporting of state data in general “needs to be faster.” The public should be able to review information that “is accurately reflecting what’s happening in the school community.”
The regulations must be approved by the board, and if so, would take effect in the 2017-2018 school year. The education department is reviewing responses submitted by the public.
State officials wrote in the proposal for the law that it is scheduled for consideration at the board’s December meeting.