MINEOLA, N.Y. – Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas announced today the establishment of the Nassau County School & Community Safety Task Force to enhance the security of schools, colleges, places of worship, and public buildings. The task force held its inaugural meeting at the Morrelly Homeland Security Center today and featured remarks by high school students and school leaders as well as presentations by the FBI, Nassau County Police Department, Nassau County District Attorney’s Office, and a privacy law expert.
“We cannot allow the frequency of mass shootings in America to leave us complacent,” DA Singas said. “These horrific acts of violence could happen here, and we must take every possible preventative step to ensure that educators, parents, mental health professionals, and religious leaders share information regarding possible threats so that law enforcement can diligently investigate them. This Task Force will bring stakeholders together to tear down communication barriers and ensure Nassau is taking a proactive approach to prevent these senseless crimes.”
DA Singas noted that privacy laws such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) and the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) are frequently cited by medical professionals and school officials as obstacles to information-sharing regarding potential threats, but that both laws have clear exceptions for disclosures to law enforcement regarding imminent safety threats.
The Task Force will:
Explore the protocols in place at Nassau schools and colleges to share information regarding potential threats with law enforcement
Assess the training and support needs of educators, religious leaders, and private security officials at public buildings, including malls, to reduce the threat of a mass casualty event
Develop recommendations and guidance to ensure that timely disclosures regarding individuals who may be a danger to themselves or others are expeditiously made to the appropriate parties
Prepare a training curriculum for educators and mental health practitioners regarding the health and safety exceptions to FERPA and HIPPA
Issue a public report detailing the Task Force’s findings and recommendations.
In the wake of mass shootings at places of worship, the task force will also engage religious community leaders to address concerns regarding church safety. Reports of anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim bias crime on Long Island have been rising since 2016 according to statistics gathered by the District Attorney’s Hate Crimes Unit.
The Task Force, which is still in formation, will be chaired by Deputy Executive Assistant District Attorney for Community Relations, Joyce Smith, and will include the following members:
Mr. Malik Nadeem Abid, Amb. & Sec’y Gen., UN International Human Rights Comm’n.
Ms. Jamie Bogenshutz, President, Nassau Alliance for Addiction Services
Mr. David Candelaria, Major, New York State Police
Dr. Isma Chaudhry, President, Islamic Center of Long Island
Mr. Sean Ross Collins, Public Affairs Coordinator, The LGBT Network
Mr. John P. Dembek, Director of Life Safety, Catholic Health Services of Long Island
Mr. Ronald Ellerbe, President, Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Assn.
Rev. Philip E. Elliott, Bishop, Antioch Baptist Church
Dr. David Flatley, President, Nassau County Council of School Superintendents
Ms. Tatum Fox, Deputy County Executive for Public Safety
Ms. Eda Franco, Executive Director, Mental Health Assn. of Nassau Co.
Ms. Susan Gottehrer, Director, New York Civil Liberties Union, Nassau Co. Chapter
Mr. Gerald Handley, Special Agent, Homeland Security Investigations
Mr. Gerry Holler, President, L.I. Metro Area College & University Sec.’y. Consortium
Ms. Christie Jacobson, Attorney, Frazer & Feldman, LLP
Mr. Jared Kasschau, Nassau County Attorney
Mr. George Khouzamis, Asst. Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation
Ms. Sue Moller, President, Nassau Counselors’ Assn.
Ms. Karen O’Callaghan, Dir. of Public Safety, Hofstra University
Ms. Omayra Pérez, Coord. of Mental Health Services, Nassau County Dept. of Human Svcs.
Ms. Mindy Perlmutter, Executive Director, Jewish Community Relations Board
Ms. Lynn Petrofsky, Associate Director, Nassau Region PTA
Mr. James Romagnoli, VP Corporate Security, Northwell Health
Ms. Kyle Rose-Louder, Dep. County Exec. for Health & Human Svcs.
Mr. Patrick Ryder, Nassau County Police Commissioner
Mr. Christopher Shishko, Attorney, Guercio & Guercio, LLP
Ms. Tomia Smith, Teacher, Massapequa School District
Ms. Caryn Stepner, Assistant District Attorney & Hate Crimes Unit Chief, NCDA
Dr. Kathleen Walsh, Superintendent, Diocese of Rockville Centre Dept. of Education
Mr. Robert Zimmerman, Partner, Zimmerman/Edelson Inc.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said, “To be effective in protecting our schools and our children we must stop working in silos and instead work together at all levels of government. Communication and education are critical to establishing an effective plan to preventing and responding to any threat at one of our schools.”
Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said, “This new initiative by the District Attorney will bring together numerous professionals from different backgrounds to enhance all around safety. As a group we need to eliminate barriers to information sharing as it is ever so important to be able to prevent this violence. I look forward to collaborating in the future with the members of the task force to ensure our preparedness which will benefit out residents and communities.”
Nassau County Council of School Superintendents President Dr. David Flatley said, “This is an important opportunity for Nassau County to come together to develop protocols focused on keeping our schools safe places for teaching and learning. I applaud District Attorney Singas for organizing the School and Community Safety Task Force and I look forward to working with County Executive Curran, Commissioner Ryder and other members of the leadership of our county in the coordination of these critical resources.”
Task Force members will work in committees focused on prevention and disclosure of threats, law enforcement collaboration and responsiveness, as well as legislative, privacy, and training issues and will issue its report by year’s end.
The Task Force has established a web site at www.nassausafety.org which affords the public the opportunity to submit questions, concerns, or comments to the Task Force.