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Education

New DA Task Force Starting to Zero in on Standardized Response to School Threats, Shootings

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Scott Willis
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WAER News

The members of a new task force created by the Onondaga County district attorney’s office are starting to narrow down ways to formulate a more unified, consistent response to threats or shooting incidents at schools. The school safety task force held its second meeting Thursday. DA Bill Fitzpatrick says one of the first priorities is legislative.

“My office has been working on a specific statute that would deal with the type of conduct that certainly should be, in my judgment, be considered felonious – a specific target, threat against a school,” Fitzpatrick said.

That’s just one of many items on his so-called legislative wish list. Another might be a bit more controversial.

"Can we restrict people's ability to purchase firearms.  If an 18-year-old walks in and wants to buy 500 rounds of ammunition, is that something that we would like to know about without the earth stopping on its axis?"

Various subcommittees have been meeting leading up to Thursday’s gathering. West Genesee Superintendent Dr. Chris Brown chairs the training subcommittee, and has found an array of differences in how faculty might respond to an incident.

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Credit Scott Willis / WAER News
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WAER News
West Genesee Superintendent Chris Brown, who leads the subcommittee on training, hopes that the task force will result in universal training for teachers and staff.

“It funnels down into how consistently inconsistent we are around the county in terms of the trainings that we provide school to school to school to school,” Brown said. “I can tell you right now that one of the outcomes of our committee is going to be to try to establish some kind of best practices for consistency when it comes to active shooter training, lockdown training, lockout training – also the people who get trained.”

Brown says there’s also a lot of inconsistency in the communication of an incident, whether it’s internally, or what information is sent to parents and the media externally.  Sheriff Gene Conway leads the law enforcement subcommittee, and says they’re looking at what happens after police arrive on the scene.

“We need some more planning on alerting parents, concerned people, who may be rushing to that school,” Conway said. “How do we best stage them? How do we best communicate with them? I think it’s something that does need to be addressed because in so many situations, we may have the situation contained, but now we have all this chaos going on, and we want to try to minimize those fears as much as possible.”

The various subcommittees will continue to narrow down priorities at their next meetings before reporting to the full task force when it meets again in mid-May.

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Credit Scott Willis / WAER News
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WAER News
District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick, center, and Sheriff Gene Conway met Thursday with the committee to standardize how schools and law enforcement respond to threats.