Please Note: I received an email from one of our high school students this morning. Because I realize we may have other students who are also worried about school safety after hearing about a threat made by a single student, I’m sharing my reply here so that all of our students can read it.
Dear SHS Student:
Thank you for reaching out to me. There are many rumors surrounding this situation, and I’m grateful that you came straight to me to seek information.
Our first and most important responsibility as a District — every day — is to keep everyone safe. Rest assured that I and others take that obligation very seriously.
Unfortunately, I am somewhat limited from speaking too much about any specific student discipline matter by federal student privacy laws. I can say, however, that in the recent situation, the very best thing happened when smart students reported what they had heard to the Erie County Sheriff’s office (this wise action by our students was and is critically important to keeping everyone safe, every day). We have worked with the Sheriff’s Department since that happened and will continue to work with the Sheriff’s Department and other law enforcement agencies to address any threat.
In general, I can say that in a situation when a student makes a threat to hurt someone in one of our schools, we respond with a superintendent’s hearing, which must be held any time a student does something that may warrant more than a five-day suspension from school. At that hearing, an impartial hearing officer hears the case – allowing the District administration (with help from law enforcement) to present its case and recommend a penalty if the student is found guilty of the charge(s) against him or her. If a student is found guilty, the impartial hearing officer then recommends a penalty based upon the facts of the specific case.
These penalties can be reviewed by the Commissioner of Education, and therefore past decisions from the Commissioner of Education must guide my decision regarding any penalty in a student discipline matter. And past decisions from the Commissioner of Education dictate that a student making a serious threat against our students and staff would result in a lengthy out of school suspension of at least a calendar year.
I am sorry that I cannot provide more specific information regarding the particular case you mentioned. But I cannot adequately state the seriousness with which I and others at the District view threats to the safety of our students and employees, and that I follow the Commissioner’s previous decisions in imposing discipline.
Finally, please know that Mr. Bialasik and Mr. DeMartino are in the building to meet with you or any other student, should you want to talk to someone. And I am also available to do so as well.
Thank you again for contacting me,
Kimberly Moritz, Superintendent of Schools