New Rochelle Schools Issue Statement on Decision Not to Evacuate High School After Threat

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New Rochelle Schools Issue Statement on Decision Not to Evacuate High School After Threat

December 06, 2013 - 06:15

Interim Superintendent of Schools Jeffrey Korostoff has issued the following statement in response to our story yesterday: New Rochelle High School Threatened for Third Time But No Evacuation


To the New Rochelle Community:

During the past two weeks, information has been circulating about threatening telephone calls being received by New Rochelle High School. The receipt of two such calls, on November 20 and December 2, led to the High School being evacuated while the New Rochelle Police Department conducted sweeps of the building to assess whether there was any actual danger. On November 20, because of the time of day of the evacuation and the nature of the sweep by the police department, the remainder of the school day at the High School was canceled. On December 2, once the District was assured by the Police Department that it was safe for everyone to return, our educational program resumed. It also has been reported that another telephone threat was received on December 3, for which the decision was made not to evacuate the building. The community should be assured that the Police Department was fully consulted on December 3, just as it had been consulted on December 2 and November 20. The Police Department advised that the circumstances of the December 3 call did not warrant another evacuation of the building for the second consecutive day.

All of these incidents presently are the subject of an active police investigation. We will not compromise that investigation by commenting on specific aspects of what is viewed as confidential information. We have every expectation that the Police Department, employing the full spectrum of resources uniquely available to it, will identify the caller or callers responsible for this disruption of our school and of the public tranquility in our community. Once identified, those responsible will be prosecuted.

The New Rochelle Police Department is and must be our partner in insuring the safety and security of our children and staff. School districts such as ours must rely upon the expertise of law enforcement agencies when deciding how to respond to threats or possible danger of any sort. This is what we have done, and will continue to do, whenever safety and security issues present themselves. In each instance in which a threatening call was received, the District has requested the recommendation of the Police Department on how to respond appropriately. Having received that recommendation, we have followed it in each instance.

We believe the entire community shares our concern that the instructional needs of our students and our entire educational program at the High School have been disrupted by the criminal acts which have occurred over the last two weeks. But let there be no doubt that the determination whether and when to interrupt the school day as a result of a telephone or other threat never will be taken by the District alone, without a thorough consultation with the Police Department and the ultimate recommendation of those who have the professional expertise on the subject of public safety.

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Robert Cox's picture

Back in August the district put out a statement including a timeline regarding the asbestos exposure incident that was riddled with inconsistencies. Upon hearing it read at a school board meeting, I stated then that the timeline would not stand up to scrutiny. It did not. The district was forced to issue a retraction. The retraction statement was also flawed, which I pointed out, and yet another retraction was issued.

The district's response to my reporting on the asbestos at Davis, and the ensuing coverup, was largely a David Lacher production. Davis is the President of the Board of Education and fancies himself as some sort of clever communications strategist who prides himself on his imagined ability to trick people through cleverly worded statements decided to deceive by mixing some truth with lies and a lot of leaving out pertinent information.

Mr. Lacher similarly crafted the district's response to a damning finding from the U.S. Department of Justice regarding the district's failure to evacuate 2 wheel-chair bound students during a fire-related evacuation in January. In that response, he tried to make it sound like the DOJ was offering advice on how to improve safety measures at the school when, in fact, the DOJ was offering the district a last chance to explain itself before brining charges against the district.

This week, in response to the 2 known threats and evacuations at NRHS, Mr. Lacher was at it again. Not telling the public nor even fellow board members of a third threat that very morning in which NRHS was not evacuated.

Now we have a statement in which the District (and Lacher's fingerprints are all over this too) lays the entire mess at the feet of the New Rochelle Police Department.

Anyone familiar at all with the disdain that exists between the two parties and Mr. Carroll's finely-tuned political instincts would know that the idea that Patrick Carroll would take on the responsibility and liability for becoming the decider of whether or not to evacuate one of our public schools is absurd.

I have my difference with Mr. Carroll but we share views on the poor security situation in the New Rochelle schools. A published an interview with Mr. Carroll in which he called for NRPD to take over ALL of the security in the schools. An idea flatly rejected by school officials.

At the end of the day there are records.

There will be records of when the NRPD was called to the NRHS on Tuesday. There will be records of who responded. There will be lots of other records.

I am highly confident that the records will not support the statement put out last night by the district -- that the district consulted with NRPD and based on their decision not to evacuate NRHS on direction from NRPD.

We will want to know a few things:

1. When did the threatening call come in to NRHS?
2. When was the call first heard at NRYS"
3. What did Principal Richardson do upon hearing the threat?
4. What conversations took place among school officials?
5. When was NRPD contacted?
6. Who in NRPD communicated with CSDNR?
7. Who told CSDNR that NRPD recommended not evacuated, when, where?

This information will come out. This information will not match up with the statement issued by CSDNR.

Beyond that, there is the new safety protocols embedded in this statement.

After much fanfare, the district finally, after a decade of failing to comply with the NY SAFE Law, created safety teams, safety plans, held hearings, hired consultants, received recommendations, formerly adopted plans and teams and filed the results with New York State as required under SAVE.

Those plans do not include the sequence described in the latest statement where decisions to evacuate a school building will now involve calls to the District's Central Office and the NPRD and some sort of joint decision making.

The entire point of safety plans is for rapid, rote decision making to minimize delays where seconds count -- fire, bomb, active-shooter, etc.

Recall that the entire motivation for the district over this past year was the Sandy Hook tragedy.

Adam Lanza killed 26 students and staff in less than 10 minutes.

By the time a principal gets people from Central Office and NRPD on the phone (and note this latest incident occurred at about 7 am when Central Office is closed) and they discuss and evaluate and weigh the pros and cons, the event could well be over with catastrophic results.