image of school safety text, child behind school fenceAs students head back to the classrooms, from pre-school to college, here in Westchester, the District Attorney’s Office is focusing on keeping our children and young adults safe from harm, from threats within schools to those that might come from the outside.

In the wake of school shootings like the February massacre in Florida, the District Attorney’s Office is bringing together experts to gather intelligence and best practices revolving around:


  • Best forms of response and communications
  • How to evaluate and secure buildings in advance of and during an incident
  • How to communicate with law enforcement, other facilities, families and students before, during and after an incident
  • Awareness about the red flags a person in crisis may be exhibiting
  • How to deal with both health privacy and FERPA laws
  • How to evaluate external threats via social media
  • How to deal with hate speech and internet bullying and more.

The District Attorney’s Office is taking several steps to pull together experts in all fields and increase everyone’s knowledge by working closely together across communities, departments and specialties.

In early August, the Westchester Intelligence Center (WIC) hosted its inaugural School Resource Officer (SRO) Summit. Led by WIC Acting Executive Director Andrew Ludlum, the objective of the SRO Summit meetings are to develop a consistent and centralized information exchange process among School Resource Officers (SROs) and other agency stakeholders across Westchester County’s 40-plus police departments and as almost many school districts.

The WIC, a unit within the DA’s Office, has a twofold mission in relation to school safety in Westchester County: To collect, analyze and disseminate actionable intelligence regarding school threats and other school safety issues; and to serve as a clearinghouse of resource information for all communities.

More than 40 members of the law enforcement community attended the first meeting Aug. 2, 2018. The group will meet several times during the course of the year to update and exchange information among school districts and public and private campuses.

To look at the broader issues of school safety, District Attorney Scarpino has announced the formation of the Westchester County School Safety Commission comprised of leaders representing schools, educators, mental health experts and law enforcement throughout Westchester County, an initiative in collaboration with County Executive George Latimer. The commission is tasked with facilitating and implementing best practices to keep students, faculty and staff safe while in Westchester schools. Intelligence gathering from the WIC SRO exchanges will be just one piece of the greater whole.

The commission will look for ways to complement existing local, statewide and national efforts to address school safety and focus on specific issues impacting schools and college campuses: how to evaluate and secure buildings in advance of and during an incident; how to communicate with law enforcement, other facilities, families and students before, during and after an incident; learn awareness about the red flags that a person in crisis may be exhibiting; and train teachers, staff and volunteers in these best practices.

In addition to the DA’s Office, representatives on the Commission, which is still in formation, include educators, experts and leaders from the following offices and organizations: Westchester Putnam School Boards Assoc.; Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents; BOCES; Westchester County departments of Public Safety, Community Mental Health, and Probation; U.S. Department of Homeland Security; New York State Police; New York State University Police and other police departments; and others.

In addition to the threats of mass violence, the commission will take into account how bullying and hate speech can affect students quality of life, just as hoax bomb threats can be disruptive to an entire building or campus.

The first meeting of the Commission is scheduled for Sept. 18, 2018.

Other school-focused initiatives provided by DA’s Office
The Westchester Intelligence Center has mapped all of the elementary, middle and high schools in Westchester, so that data is available to all law enforcement who may be responding to a threat. By making it available, we can help county, state and local police departments and the FBI working across jurisdictions respond quickly where needed.

Proactively, the WIC monitors social media. If analysts see anything on social media scrolls that are perceived as threatening, they alert the local police department in that area to take appropriate action with the help of the District Attorney’s Office.

In the meantime, the DA’s Office encourages schools and school districts to take advantage of safety and security audits which can be done by local police departments to help them strengthen their own security to prevent mass incidents; and for schools and school district School Resource Officers to take part in training provided by the Westchester County Dept. of Public Safety.

Also, schools and community groups can request speakers from the District Attorney’s Office on important safety topics such as internet safety issues, including handling of school threat cases and how students might be involved in these kinds of crimes. To schedule a school or community presentation, contact the Bureau of Strategic Planning & Community Outreach at (914) 995-3317.