Project SAVE (Safe Schools Against Violence in Education) was enacted by the New York State legislature to promote a safer and more effective learning environment within New York State's schools. The Governor also signed a bill that will require all prospective school employees and applicants for teacher certification to be fingerprinted for State and Federal criminal history background checks and will end the practice of silent resignations. Provisions of Project SAVE include:
School Violence Prevention Standards, Coordination, & Reporting
Codes of Conduct: Requires schools to adopt codes of conduct for the maintenance of order on school grounds and to file such codes with SED. Items include:
Violent Incident Reporting System: Requires the Commissioner of Education and DCJS to develop a statewide system of reporting violent incidents on school grounds. Schools would report to the Commissioner, at a minimum: the number and types of violent incidents, the number of suspensions and other forms of discipline, actions taken by the school, age and grade of disciplined pupils. This includes an annual report to the Governor and the Legislature regarding the prevalence of violent incidents on school grounds, and inclusion of such information on school report cards.
School Safety Plan: This will require local schools and law enforcement to develop and adopt district-wide school safety plans and building-level emergency response plans for crisis response and management. Items required include:
District-wide school safety teams and building-level emergency response teams: Plans would include policies and procedures for responding to threats and acts of violence, safe evacuation and contacting law enforcement and parents during a violent incident, detecting potentially violent persons, building security, annual school safety training for students and staff.
Building-level emergency response plans would include evacuation protocol, access to floor plans and maps of the school's buildings and grounds, use of internal and external emergency communication systems and procedures for conducting drills and other exercises to test the effectiveness of the plan and policies to preserve evidence at a crime scene in the case of a serious violent incident. Schools will develop such plans in conjunction with law enforcement officials, where appropriate.
Court Notification: Require Family and Criminal courts to notify schools about juvenile delinquency adjudications where the student is placed in a youth detention facility, criminal convictions of students and youthful offender adjudications of students. Increases coordination between the juvenile justice system and schools, so that students are better prepared for reintegration into school following release from a youth detention facility.
Discipline & Suspension
Disruptive Pupil Removal: Allows teachers to remove disruptive or violent pupils from the classroom, consistent with district codes of conduct, with appropriate procedural safeguards for affected students.
Suspending Authority: Adds principals to those empowered to suspend pupils from school entirely, without specific board delegation of that authority. Requires districts to include, in their codes of conduct, minimum periods of suspension for violent or repeatedly disruptive pupils.
Assaults on Teachers: Assaults on teachers or school personnel which results in an injury would be increased from a misdemeanor to a Class D felony.
Assaults by Non-Students: increases from a misdemeanor to a Class D felony an assault by a non-student that results in an injury to a student while on school grounds.
School Faculty & Staff
Whistleblower Protection: Protection for those employees who report violent incidents, whereby an employee may not be disciplined or fired for reporting these incidents and is protected from any civil liability.
Teacher Discipline: Provides for a range of discipline measures for teachers, consistent with the other professions regulated by the State Education Department. In addition to revocation of a teaching certificate, discipline will now include suspension, continuing education, limitation on certificates and monetary fines.
Character Education / Health Curriculum / Interpersonal Violence Prevention
Omnibus School Violence Prevention Grants:
Provides for extended day activities and school safety activities. Funding for these activities are already provided under the State's extended day/school violence prevention grants.
Fingerprinting and Criminal Background Checks
Prospective Employees and Applicants for Certification: Requires prospective school district employees and applicants for teacher certification to be fingerprinted for a criminal history background check in order to be cleared for employment at a school or certification.
Does not apply to current employees of a school district. However, if a current employee terminates employment and seeks employment in a different school district, the individual must undergo the fingerprinting process. This law will also apply if a currently certified individual applies for additional certification, such as a teacher applying for an administrator's certificate.
SED will collect fingerprints and $74 processing fee from each applicant and submit to DCJS. Provisions exist for a waiver of the fee for applicants for employment who demonstrate to the district that payment of the fee would create a financial hardship. Criminal history records, if any, will be sent by DCJS and FBI to SED for review and consideration of whether any convictions or outstanding arrests justify denial of clearance for employment or certification. Applicants who are denied clearance will be afforded an opportunity to challenge the determination by SED and to review and challenge content of criminal history record through DCJS process.
Child Abuse in an Educational Setting: Defines child abuse in an educational setting as any of the following acts committed against a child in an educational setting by a school employee or volunteer:
Willful failure to make a required report will be a Class A misdemeanor. Individuals who in good faith comply with the reporting requirements will be entitled to immunity from any civil liability which might otherwise result from such actions.
Ends the practice of silent resignation whereby school authorities allow a person to resign rather than disclosing allegations of child abuse by bringing disciplinary actions through the Education Department or filing a complaint with law enforcement authorities.
If a superintendent permits an employee to resign under these circumstances, it will be a class E felony, punishable by up to a maximum of 4 years in prison. In addition, the superintendent will be subject to a civil penalty not to exceed $20,000.