Governor Met With State Public Safety and Education Leaders to Reinforce Plans for Student Safety amid Increased 'Swatting' Calls
New York State Police and State Education Department Issue Letter to School Administrators Across New York State Instructing Them to Review Preparedness and Safety Measures
Governor Kathy Hochul today announced heightened monitoring in response to the recent increase in "swatting" calls, or the false reporting of a serious law enforcement emergency, such as a bomb threat, hostage situation, or homicide, across the state and country. Earlier today, Governor Hochul met with state public safety and education leaders to coordinate preparedness and safety measures to ensure all children remain safe in schools and that all school districts and local police have the latest guidance on school safety protocols.
"Every child in New York deserves to feel safe at school and every parent should trust that their child will return home at the end of every day," Governor Hochul said. "State and local law enforcement are conducting increased monitoring to make sure that all of our students are safe, and our first responders are always prepared in the event of an emergency. While these false threats of violence occur across the country, New York is taking proactive steps so that they do not become a reality."
New York State Police Acting Superintendent Steven A. Nigrelli said, "Providing a safe and secure learning environment for our children and teachers is our number one priority. Rest assured, we proactively work with our agency partners on the School Safety Improvement Team as well as our local law enforcement partners to support their efforts, and we will continue to do so. Let me be clear, swatting incidents such as this, which disrupt our schools and divert valuable state resources, will not be tolerated and we are committed to finding those responsible."
New York State Education Department Commissioner Dr. Betty A. Rosa said, "The safety of our students and school-based staff is our top priority. Every threat to school communities, whether founded or unfounded, is a deterrent to learning and mental health. Proactive and ongoing communication with schools and providing supports to keep school safety plans up to date is critical to our mission of ensuring educators have the resources necessary to appropriately and adequately respond to these threats and that learning continues unabated. We will continue to work with Governor Hochul and our partners in law enforcement at the state and local levels to provide guidance through these challenges. The dedication and resilience of educators and students across New York to rise above and persevere is inspirational."
New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta said, "We've said it over and over again: The safety of our schoolchildren is the top priority for educators throughout the state. We appreciate the governor's swift attention to this matter and the ongoing commitment of law enforcement and school administrators to take any threats to our schools seriously. We must unite to do everything we can to keep our public schools safe and welcoming environments for all."
In addition to meeting with State public safety and education leaders, Governor Hochul collaborated with the New York State Police and the State Education Department to issue a letter to school leaders across New York State directing them to review preparedness and safety measures in the wake of Monday's school shooting in Nashville and increased "swatting" calls.
The full text of the letter is below:
Dear School Leaders,
The unthinkable happened in another school in the United States when three children and three staff members were shot and killed in Nashville this week. Our heartfelt condolences go out to the individuals and families impacted by the heinous and tragic shooting.
Just days later, the school day was disrupted for many of you by active shooter threats that were called in to more than three dozen schools in nearly every region of our state.
The threats are believed to be "swatting" incidents - or the false reporting of a serious law enforcement emergency, such as a bomb threat, hostage situation, or homicide. Law enforcement investigated the threats and determined them to be false, but nonetheless, they generated a great deal of stress, confusion and emotional trauma for children, parents and staff, and tied up valuable law enforcement resources. Police on the local, state and federal level are working to trace the threats and arrest those who are responsible.
It is important for school administrators and leadership teams to always be prepared for any possible incident, but in this time of heightened anxiety related to school safety, it is particularly important to facilitate a safe and calm culture of preparedness, as well as clear communication between law enforcement and school officials.
In the aftermath of a traumatizing event like the Nashville shooting and subsequent false threats of violence, school officials may wish to postpone any scheduled drills to reduce the risk of additional trauma to students and staff while maintaining awareness of processes and procedures to keep students and staff safe. Schools that conduct drills should do so with the utmost care and caution and always by informing all participants that it is a drill. After the conclusion, it is best practice to leave time to debrief with students and staff.
- In addition to conducting the above reviews, school leadership should immediately.
- Review your Building-Level Response Plan, which is required under NYS education law section 2801-A and ensure that you are following the guidance on the NY Emergency Response Card S.H.E.L.L
- Meet with staff assigned to critical Incident Command System (ICS) roles
- Follow annual drill requirements, which is the best way to train students and staff on emergency response procedures.
Please do not hesitate to reach out using the contact information below if you need resources or require additional training.in addition to the close relationships you have developed with your local law enforcement agencies. NYSED and State Police will continue to monitor this situation closely, and State Police School Community Outreach Coordinators will be following up directly with the school districts who received the threats to ensure they have all the information and to answer any questions.
As an additional precaution or reassurance, State and/or local law enforcement can often increase their school presence in the days and weeks after a threat or in response to a local or national violent incident.
In 2022, Governor Hochul strengthened the Red Flag Protection Law to expand the individuals who are able to seek extreme risk orders of protection (ERPOs). In addition to school administrators and certain people chosen by the school, such as teachers, guidance counselors, school psychologist, school nurse and coaches, this includes:
- Police officers
- District Attorneys
- Family or household members. This includes:
- people legally married or divorced
- people with a child in common, including adopted children
- people related by marriage, like in-laws
- people related by blood, like brothers, parents, cousins
- unrelated people who live, or have lived together for periods of time
- unrelated people who are in an intimate relationship (current or former), like same-sex couples and teens who are dating.
It is vitally important that schools ensure staff and leadership universally understand the law and how it protects the school community by removing guns from those who are a danger to themselves or others. If school personnel have concerns about a particular person, the New York State Court System's website also has detailed information about the ERPO process.
Included in review of district-level safety plans, schools should consider the use of panic alarm systems, which are inexpensive and commercially available and allow staff and administrators to quickly signal a life-threatening or emergency situation requiring a response from the closest law enforcement personnel. This requirement was put in place through passage of Alyssa's Law in 2022.
Emergency Response planning resources are available on New York State Center for School Safety's webpage, including a new video titled, "Seconds Count" that was developed by the NYS Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services in partnership with the NYS School Safety Improvement Team to describe school emergency S.H.E.L.L. response procedures. Note that the video is intended for adults and should not be viewed by students.
The State Education Department Office of Student Support Services, in partnership with other state agencies and the State Police will continue to provide guidance and resources in the coming days. If you have questions, please contact us at [email protected].
Providing a safe and secure learning environment for our children and teachers is our number one priority and we stand ready to help in any way we can.
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