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September 2019

Board of Education Meeting Outlines Safety Protocols in Cases of Student Threats

By Jean Emerich

 

On June 18, after the preliminary review of “items, ” finance and budget reports available on the Mamaroneck Union Free School District website, the final Board of Education Meeting of the school year began its analysis of the June 11th, June 14th and June 17th incidents at Hommocks Middle School.

 

The President of the Board of Education, Mr. Warner and Dr. Shaps, Superintendent of Schools addressed the well-attended meeting and outlined the districts protocols which are used in response to student threats to cause harm to other students and staff. Dr. Shaps emphasized that although none of the incidents were related or proved credible, there is no such thing as an idle threat or social media prank.

 

Law enforcement is called swiftly and directs all subsequent actions.

 

The issue of communication while an alleged threat is being investigated was paramount to the parents and community members in attendance.

 

Dr. Shaps emphasized that school leadership must act in accordance with the legal ramifications for each situation.

 

Parents were not calmed by the promise to review all protocols this summer.

 

 

Superintendent of Schools and Board will Review Communication Protocols

By Dr. Robert Shaps,

Superintendent of Schools

 

Over the past several weeks, we have been challenged by three unrelated instances of alleged student threats to the safety of Hommocks Middle School. My intention is to address these incidents and our district’s protocols at the Board of Education meeting June 18. However, it is important to share with you the facts of each incident and our leadership’s reactions and perspectives.

 

Let’s examine the incidents and simple facts that confronted us:

 

1. Tuesday afternoon, June 11, building administrators were informed that a middle school student threatened to harm students. As will always be the case, we immediately contacted police, who began an investigation. During the investigation, the student in question was not at Hommocks and was being supervised at all times. On Wednesday, {June 12} in response to articulated concerns, we communicated to parents that there was no threat to safety and that students and staff were safe.

 

2. On June 14, police were contacted and a lockout was issued and communicated to parents as a precautionary measure after a parent and student relayed to us that threats were made against students by a student who was not attending school.  The lockout ended after police advised us that there was no active or credible threat to students and staff.

 

3. On June 17, in an incident relayed to us overnight, police notified us that a former middle school student ─ not living in or near the district ─ had made a social media threat to harm students. Police took immediate action to investigate and advised us that there was no active or credible threat to students and staff.

 

Though none of these incidents were related or proved credible, there is no such thing as an idle threat or social media prank. We will always exercise our safety protocols swiftly and rely upon law enforcement for expertise and guidance. Further, parents and students alike should understand that the district will not tolerate nor excuse student acts that pose serious and immediate safety threats to our students and staff.

 

The issue of communication while an alleged threat is being investigated is of critical importance. Parents and staff have a right to know what we are doing to fulfill our first-priority mandate to maintain safe and secure school environments. However, there are times when we can only provide limited information based upon law enforcement guidance or legal concerns, or are challenged to communicate in a timely way based upon insufficiency of information. That is an ongoing concern for me, as it likely is for parents and staff, and something we must reflect upon and address.

 

With this in mind, we will review (this summer) the context of our existing communication protocols and practices with an eye toward ensuring that we are always communicating in a balanced, transparent, and timely manner. I look forward to sharing a follow-up communication from our school leadership team and Board of Education before the start of the new school year in September.