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Audit finds central, northern NY schools among those not meeting safety requirements

Ryan Delaney
WRVO News File Photo
The Syracuse City School District was included in a recent audit from the New York State Comptroller's office that found many school districts are not meeting the minimum requirements under state law.

Schools in central and northern New York are among those included in a recent audit from the New York State Comptroller's office that reviewed how prepared school districts are for emergency situations. It found none of the schools met the minimum planning or training requirements of the state education department.

Nineteen schools of various sizes across the state were assessed using the requirements under New York state law. School districts have to appoint a chief emergency officer and school safety team, develop and adopt an emergency response plan for events like school shootings, and implement training for staff. No specifics are being released for how each school district performed, but state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli says some didn't even have a safety plan.

"It's an area where clearly there are gaps," DiNapoli said. "In some cases they were woefully inadequate in meeting any of the requirements. It just really is a reminder that this is a real situation, it needs to be incorporated fully in emergency preparedness, so I'm hoping our audit will remind everyone to check with their local school district and make sure in fact they are complying with the requirements."

Tom Ristoff is the director of safety and security at the Syracuse City School District.

The Syracuse City School District and Fayetteville-Manlius Central School District in Onondaga County were included in the study, as was the Indian River Central School District in Jefferson County. Tom Ristoff, director of safety and security at the Syracuse City School District, would not say how the district scored. But Ristoff says the only shortcomings were in documenting their compliance with state law.

"Real time there was never any lapse in safety, there was never any staff or student endangered by any omissions or anything that should have been done that we were supposed to be doing," Ristoff said. "We were always doing what we were supposed to be doing."

The audit period lasted from 2017 to 2018. Ristoff notes that in the last school year the Syracuse City School District contracted with SUNY Oswego to implement and provide training for a standard response protocol. That was funded with a grant.

Ristoff says more schools would be in compliance if New York state leaders invested more resources into security training and personnel.

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.