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NYS Comptroller

THOMAS P. DiNAPOLI

Taxpayers' Guide to State and Local Audits

State Education Department
Compliance With the Safe Schools Against Violence in Education Act (Follow-Up)


Issued: June 3, 2016
Link to full audit report 2016-F-2
Link to 30-day response

Purpose
To determine the extent of implementation of the five recommendations made in our audit report, Compliance With the Safe Schools Against Violence in Education Act (2013-S-71).

Background
The Safe Schools Against Violence in Education Act (SAVE Act) was enacted in July 2000 to address the need to provide a safe learning environment for New York’s students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. To comply with the SAVE Act, the State Education Department (Department) developed a process for collecting annual data from school districts about incidents that occur in schools and on school property. The Department uses the data to designate persistently dangerous schools. The Department posts incident data and the list of persistently dangerous schools on its website, and provides assistance to help schools comply with SAVE Act requirements and reduce the number and severity of incidents. Under the SAVE Act, the Department is also responsible for summarizing and communicating incident data to the Governor, the Legislature and the Board of Regents on an annual basis.

In our initial audit report, issued on January 13, 2015, we found that for the period July 1, 2011 through June 16, 2014, the Department failed to comply with certain key SAVE Act provisions, which limited the effectiveness of the Act. For seven selected schools, we found that the related school districts did not properly and accurately report the schools’ statistics on crime and incidents to the Department. The inaccurate reporting included unreported incidents and incidents misclassified as less serious than they were. The Department uses the incident data to identify persistently dangerous schools; therefore, incorrect or incomplete data compromises these efforts and increases the risk that schools with unsafe learning environments are not identified. We also found the Department had not designated persistently dangerous schools for the 2013-14 school year, and did not issue annual reports to the Governor, Legislature and Board of Regents, as required.

Key Findings

  • Department officials made significant progress in addressing the problems we identified in the initial audit. Of the initial report’s five audit recommendations, four were implemented and one was partially implemented.
  • We determined the Department clarified incident reporting guidance; provided new training to schools on how to report incidents; improved its site visit processes to help enhance school safety and improve the accuracy of incident reporting; and annually designated persistently dangerous schools, as required. Additionally, the Department visited two schools identified in our initial audit to provide technical assistance to help the schools improve how they report incidents.
  • At the time of our follow-up, the Department still had not submitted a summary report of incidents to the Governor, Legislature and Board of Regents.  

Key Recommendation

  • Officials are given 30 days after the issuance of the follow-up report to provide information on any actions that are planned to address the unresolved issues discussed in this report.

Other Related Audit/Report of Interest

State Education Department: Compliance With the Safe Schools Against Violence in Education Act (2013-S-71)


State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: Andrea Inman
Phone: (518) 474-3271; Email: StateGovernmentAccountability@osc.state.ny.us
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236