New Rochelle Board of Education Security Presentation Following Bomb Threats at High School

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On December 3rd, at a school board meeting, Assistant Superintendent Diane Massimo and District Safety Administrator, gave presentations on school safety at the request of Board President David Lacher.

At this meeting I noted the progress that has been made with evacuations at New Rochelle High School and given credit where credit is due. That same evening, the district stated various ways in which it has taken action regarding school safety and over the weekend added to that list.

Unfortunately, parents, students, staff and the public were given was a laundry list of often unverifiable claims and vague generalities, offered with the hope that the uninitiated or uninformed will be pacified.

Dr. Massimo said the district had implemented a "two tiered approach" to "thwart calls and trace callers" without elaborating -- or explaining how phone calls to the high school can be "thwarted" without blocking all calls.

Ms. Garcia said “this year” each school had updated their emergency response plan. What she failed to say is that those plans had not been updated in 10 years.

She said the district has “begun the process” of conducting the mandated safety drills outlined in the district safety plan.

She then somewhat inaccurately recited the list of required drills for each school — 12 fire drills, 3 lockdown drills, 1 lockout drill, the annual early dismissal drill and an evacuation drill.

Some might have heard that list to mean those were drills that had already been done. That may well have been the intention.

The part Ms. Garcia left out is that Section 807 of the Education Law requires that eight of the 12 fire drills be be held prior to December 1. It says this right in the document she claimed to be citing.

By the time she spoke she should have been able to report that all schools had already had 8 fire drills but she did not. Folks can draw their own conclusions from that.

She said the annual early dismissal drill at the elementary and middle schools on October 4th was used to practice a “shelter in place drill”

How?

The building-level plans in New Rochelle were approved without a procedure for sheltering drills. We know this because the district violated the SAVE Law by publishing their building-level plan for Davis Elementary School on the district web site and the plans for each building are the same with particulars like names, phone numbers and room numbers changed.

What procedures did staff at these schools follow if there are no procedures in the plans?

Garcia said New Rochelle High School and the Campus school had "preliminary" evacuation drills.

There is no such thing in SAVE as a "preliminary" evacuation drill.

Up until Sandy Hook, the district had never done a single evacuation drill to an offsite location and dismissal from that location -- a drill that is required under SAVE.

This is all really meaningless gibberish.

Mr. Lacher requested these reports from Massimo and Garcia to provide the board and the public a clear understanding of the district's progress in implementing the SAVE law and the recommendations from VRI, the security consulting firm, he should have required a written report with a complete list of everything that is supposed to be done matched up with a list of what has actually been done and then some accounting for how the gap between the two will be closed.

That would be a meaningful report.

Massimo and Garcia could have then delivered a summary of that report and handed out copies (and posted them on the district web site).

The Procedures Manuals were developed to provide consistent responses to emergencies across the school district.

We do not have that.

Since Sandy Hook the public knows of 8 major incidents in our schools.

There has been 2 intruder incidents at Jefferson School, 2 fires including one explosion at the high school, 1 Hazmat incident at Davis and 3 bomb threats at the high school.

In just two of these eight incidents were the procedures in the building-level plan followed.

My open letter focuses on the decision not to evacuate the high school after a third threat was made on December 3rd.

The central point in that letter is this:

If the NRPD recommends no action and the district takes no action and no threat is carried out then all parties can defend their decision not to evacuate the school on the grounds that the “right” decision was made in not evacuating the school. This is precisely what occurred once the non-evacuation of 12/3 became known to the public (by me).

In fact, this “successful” non-decision has been put forward as PROOF of the benefit of the new protocol involving consultation with NRPD.

This is what is known as an “argumentum ad ignorantiam”.

The District, the NRPD and the City of New Rochelle assert the new protocol is sound because the decision not to evacuate upon receiving a threat was “right” because it was not proven wrong.

The school district developed building-level safety plans based on templates provided by the State of New York, with input from VRI, NRPD and other experts.

In the breach, after just three incidents at one school, the district has now chosen to abandon the procedures detailed in those plans and sought to do so without informing the public as to why and as to how. The change has been justified to the public on the grounds that the new consultative process was supposedly used once and no threat was carried out.

Having constructed this fallacy, the district is now like NASA prior to the Challenger Disaster — not evacuating in response to each threat is “right” up until the day on which it is not. At which point, it will be too late.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Please excuse the brief graphics error about 2 minutes into the video.

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