February 26, 2018 School Safety
KEEPING YOU INFORMED…
In the wake of the tragedy in Parkland, Florida, we would like to summarize the following key issues with respect to school safety:
- School Safety Plans. In the aftermath of the Columbine shootings in 1999, the New York State Legislature passed the Safe Schools Against Violence in Education Act (“Project SAVE”), which took effect in 2000. Districts must have district-wide and building level safety plans developed by teams in accordance with the Commissioner’s regulations. Each team is responsible for reviewing its respective plan at least annually and updating it as needed. This may be a propitious time for those teams to convene and recommend possible updates to the Board of Education. (See the New York State Education Department website at http://www.p12.nysed.gov/sss/ssae/schoolsafety/save/ for applicable resources and guidance. We attach a copy of the Quick Guide to Emergency Response Planning Requirements in Education Law §§ 807 and 2801-a and Commissioner’s Regulation 155.17, available at http://www.p12.nysed.gov/sss/documents/QuickGuideEmerPlanningAug2017_final.pdf).
- Federal and State Laws Addressing Guns on School Grounds. Federal and State laws generally prohibit the possession or discharge of guns on school premises. Criminal possession of a weapon on school grounds is a felony pursuant to the New York Penal Law. However, with written authorization from the school district, non-students – including local law enforcement and security guards – may possess licensed firearms on school property.
- Security Guards. School boards have the discretion to place security guards – armed or unarmed – in school buildings. If a district chooses to do so, it must ensure compliance with the requirements of the Security Guard Act of 1992, including providing proof of liability insurance to the New York State Department of State.
If a district wishes to hire a private security company to provide security guards, it must comply with the applicable procurement laws and policies. Districts should review their collective bargaining agreements and past practices to determine whether utilizing an outside agency could be considered subcontracting of unit work. If a district wishes to hire security guards as district employees, the district must comply with the applicable Civil Service rules and regulations. It is not clear whether the Nassau or Suffolk County Civil Service Commissions have created titles that cover armed school security guards.
- School Resource Officer. A School Resource Officer (SRO) is generally a member of the police department having jurisdiction over a school district. While this is a viable option, SROs are actual police officers over whom the district will not have direct control. SROs are employed, trained and supervised by the local police department.
- Liability Insurance. If a district wishes to deploy armed personnel – whether as employees, outside vendors or SROs – it should consult with its insurance professionals to ensure that the adequate amounts and types of coverage are provided for accidental or intentional discharges of a firearm. If a district utilizes a security company, the vendor agreement should include defense and indemnification provisions and require that the security company name the district as an additional insured on the company’s liability policies.
School districts or BOCES that are considering using security guards or SROs are encouraged to consult with us so that we can be sure that all of the relevant issues are addressed. Please do not hesitate to contact Eugene R. Barnosky at 631-694-2300 or any of our other attorneys if you have any questions regarding the information contained in this memorandum.
THIS MEMORANDUM IS MEANT TO ASSIST IN GENERAL UNDERSTANDING OF THE CURRENT LAW. IT IS NOT TO BE REGARDED AS LEGAL ADVICE. THOSE WITH PARTICULAR QUESTIONS SHOULD SEEK THE ADVICE OF COUNSEL.
© Lamb & Barnosky, LLP 2018