Friday, May 11, 2018

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Orange DA issues critical incident procedures for schools

GOSHEN – Following this week’s false alarm report of a man with a gun at Chester Academy that brought over 100 police officers to the scene of the Chester school, Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler has issued recommendations for school districts to follow in the event of a critical incident.

The incident this week appears to have been triggered when a student made the erroneous report to school officials.               

The voluntary procedures were developed in cooperation with school superintendents and are designed to supplement the emergency procedures that school districts already have in place, said Hoovler.

“The vast majority of evidence collected from these cases are from phones, from students, etcetera, and the police have an obligation to keep everybody safe, but in the process of keeping everybody safe, a lot of times it creates problems in the identification, collection and preservation of evidence and the idea of this protocol is to have a set of guidelines that say that if you obtain a cell phone in a school, you will call the district attorney’s office so a search warrant can be obtained,” he said.

Under the procedures, a “critical incident” is any circumstance that results in harm, or that presents a threat of harm, to the students, staff, or property of a school, including circumstances occurring on school grounds, school buses or at school functions off school grounds.

Critical incidents include, among other things, verbal or written statements, social media posts contemplating harm, acquisition or use of weapons or other harmful substances, and completed acts of harm.

The recommendations include:

  • Maintaining lines of communication with a school district notifying police immediately when a critical incident occurs and that the police contact the DA’s office.
  • Preserve evidence relevant to a critical incident so that it can be retrieved by police using lawful process. That evidence can take the form of verbal, written, or electronic communications; communication on electronic devices; relevant video that is under the control of the involved school or district; and evidence in areas of school property that the involved parties had access to at relevant times.

Since commission of critical incidents sometimes involves persons who have mental health issues, the recommended procedures suggest to school districts that, in appropriate cases, the involved parties might be referred for mental health evaluations, which the DA’s office will consider in determining how criminal charges might be handled.    

 


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