NEW ROCHELLE, NY — “I’m pissed about it,” an emotional Anthony Bambrola, Davis Elementary School Principal told a gathering of the PTA on Tuesday — mostly moms, a few dads and one young child.
“But I’m pissed with a purpose,” he added.
“Pissed” about what, and with what purpose, was unclear.
What is clear is that the situation at Davis underscores the longstanding practice of withholding damaging information from the public and other means of deception adopted by Jeff Kehl, the Board of Education and central and building administrators.
The Parent Teachers Association of the Davis Elementary School met for a previously scheduled meeting this past Tuesday morning, the day after a bombshell report on school violence at Davis appeared in Talk of the Sound. The meeting started about 20 minutes late and ran for about 90 minutes.
The meeting was led by probationary Davis Principal Anthony Bambrola. He was joined by Davis staff including Assistant Principal Laurie Marinaro, School Psychologist Dianne Dunning and Social Worker Heather Cayanan. The meeting was chaired by PTA President Daniela Rizzetta and PTA Vice President Katherine Goldstein. School Board President Jeffrey Hastie, currently the designated Davis “school board buddy”, was also on hand. Bambrola did most of the talking over the first hour before opening up the meeting to questions from the audience.
Bambrola, his voice quivering at times, told PTA parents he had experienced a gamut of emotions since Monday, losing sleep, following the publication of a Talk of the Sound article based, in part, on complaints by the teacher’s union that children were being physical with staff and administration and threats and incidents of violence by students were not being properly reported, creating an unsafe environment in the school.
The F.U.S.E. Building Committee filed the complaint last Thursday on behalf of its members via an email sent to all members of a state-mandated, board-appointed, district-wide security committee, known as “the SAVE Team”. Members of that committee include the New Rochelle City Manager, the NRPD Deputy Police Commissioner, a Captain in the New Rochelle Fire Department, the Director of School Security, the District’s Director of Special Education & Alternative Services, two members of the New Rochelle Board of Education, community volunteers, and, up until a few days ago, the Assistant Superintendent for Business & Administration and this reporter. More on that in a moment.
The F.U.S.E. complaint was discussed a week ago Friday in a public meeting of the SAVE Team during which SAVE Team and school board member Christopher Daniello expressed his concern about the complaint and, in particular, a threatened school shooting described in the complaint. Daniello, a longtime Davis parent and member of the Davis Building-Level SAVE Team, proposed to discuss the complaint with fellow board members at the then-upcoming school board meeting last Tuesday in public session. Daniello was a member of the Davis SAVE Team last year when the school shooting threat was made but, based on his comments at last Friday’s District-Wide SAVE Team meeting, he was unaware of the incident suggesting the Davis SAVE Team was not notified of the incident.
Talk of the Sound, which over the past two months has received numerous similar complaints of failures by Davis administrators to report incidents of threatened and actual violence from a variety of sources, published a widely-read story on Monday reporting on the F.U.S.E. complaint. The story was picked up by local television reporter Richard Giacovas and aired Monday night on News12.
“It’s embarrassing,” said Bambrola. “It’s demoralizing a little bit and it beats you down.”
Bambrola sought to cast his reaction to the story as a concern over student privacy rather than concern with the allegations contained in the complaint, his failure to follow the board-approved Building Emergency Response Plan (BERP), the failure to notify parents and staff of the threat, the unfavorable media coverage of him and the school and the impact of all of it on his prospects for being granted tenure by the school board.
“Some families were really hurt by the (F.U.S.E.) statement,” said Bambrola. He said it keeps him up at night that negative comments were made. Families do not deserve to hear or read negative comments, he said.
He said the complaint was not “the right platform” because there were “other avenues to take”. Bambrola failed to address the stated motivation for filing a public complaint that bypassed him — his alleged failure to properly report incidents of violence at the school.
Bambrola went on to say the complaint was a “big deal”, that “trust was eroded” with the parents of the children referenced in the complaint. He did not address the trust of parents who expect the police to be called when a student threatens to bring a gun to school and shoot a teacher and expect to be notified of such a threat.
In a recent online survey by Talk of the Sound, more than 95% of respondents said a parent has a right to know if a student at their child’s school threatens to bring a gun to school and shoot a teacher.
Hastie revealed that some school board “got reached out to” by the family, that some board members know the child which might explain the myopic, one-sided expressions of concern.
“I apologize,” said Hastie addressing the parents of the student who threatened to bring a gun to school and shoot a teacher. “I know you feel vulnerable.”
He said the school had to rebuild trust with the family, turning his remarks around by framing the issue as a privacy threat to all parents. “Something could happen to your kids at some point, you want to know that your privacy is being kept.”
Neither Bambrola or Hastie expressed the slightest concern for parents who were not told that a student had threatened to bring a gun to school and shoot a teacher.
“A lot of things cited in what came out got a little too specific for our tastes,” said Bambrola. “It’s not OK. And besides FERPA and HIPAA violations, its bad form.”
Bambrola did not provide any examples of FERPA or HIPAA violations in the complaint, the article or the TV news report.
So what was he talking about? What is FERPA and HIPAA and how does it relate to student privacy?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records such as report cards, transcripts, disciplinary records, contact and family information, and class schedules. Under FERPA, schools are generally prohibited from disclosing certain personally identifiable information about a child without written consent of a parent or guardian. Excluded from FERPA privacy protection is what is labeled “directory information”, information contained in a student’s education record that generally would not be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed.
Directory information could include: name, address, telephone listing, electronic mail address, date and place of birth, dates of attendance, and grade level; participation in officially recognized activities and sports; weight and height of members of athletic teams; degrees, honors, and awards received; and the most recent school attended. A school may disclose directory information to anyone, without consent.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) includes a Privacy Rule to establish national standards for Protected Health Information to keep private individually identifiable health information.
The complaint filed with the District-wide SAVE Team by the Davis Building Committee of F.U.S.E. describes incidents involving two students: one who while being escorted by Bambrola and Marinaro to Cayanan’s office threatened to punch Bambrola and “murder everyone in the school”, a second who told an aide he was going to “bring in a gun and shoot his teacher”.
The Talk of the Sound article references the two students referenced in the F.U.S.E. Building Committee complaint and four others from unnamed sources for a total of six students.
So, where in the complaint or article are FERPA or HIPAA privacy violations?
There are none.
With regard to the F.U.S.E. complaint or the Talk of the Sound article, the school is not releasing any information about either student so there is no FERPA or HIPAA privacy issue.
The F.U.S.E. representative is not acting as or representing herself as an agent of the school.
There is no reference to Protected Health Information in the F.U.S.E complaint so HIPAA clearly does not apply.
In neither the complaint nor the article is there any reference to student records and no personally identifiable information and nothing to infer from the complaint that is personally identifiable information.
These sorts of unfounded claims of actual or potential FERPA and HIPAA violations are the mother’s milk of deception often employed by officials at the New Rochelle Board of Education as a way to deflect criticism and serve as a pretext to avoid answering questions, to withhold incriminating public records or to manipulate parents and community members by posing as defenders of personal privacy when the real purpose is to cover up mistakes and failures by school officials or otherwise suppress negative publicity for them, a school or the District as a whole. It is a move straight out of the playbook crafted long ago by Jeff Kehl, a lawyer who has been representing the District under a no-bid contract for 41 years.
An interview Monday on WVOX shows how this strategy of deception works. School Board President Jeffrey Hastie, asked about the Talk of the Sound article, told radio show host Denise Ward that he could not talk about the article on school violence at Davis, citing FERPA. Hastie did not offer any explanation of the basis for the FERPA privacy claim (because there is none). Ward did not ask for one. She accepted Hastie’s unsubstantiated claim at face value and broke off that line of questioning. Deflection accomplished.
While the F.U.S.E. Building Committee complaint references two students other sources cited in the article reference an additional four students: a child that is often violent and disruptive in class, a child who stabbed a teacher with a protractor; a child who has run away from school on multiple occasions; a child who suffered a severe head injury after an incident on a playground.
There are no student records involved, no personally identifiable information and so no FERPA violations in any of these brief mentions.
During the PTA Meeting, Bambrola, with Hastie sitting next to him, expanded on the mention in the article of a student who sustained a head injury on a playground in response to a question from a parent as to whether school officials took steps to reassure students who had witnessed a violent incident. A head injury is a medical condition but by telling the story neither Bambrola or Hastie appears to have considered disclosing the information as a FERPA or HIPAA Violation. In fact, Bambrola added details beyond what is described in the article: the student ran into a basketball pole, the incident occurred during recess, the child’s mother works far away from the school, the child was taken to the hospital (by Bambrola), the child was transported in an ambulance, the child received stitches, the child went back to the school and told classmates what happened and reassured them he was OK.
There was certainly no privacy issue in the limited version as reported by Talk of the Sound because it was not a secret; students and staff witnessed the child injure himself by running into a basketball pole. Describing the medical care the child received at the hospital, however, may well be a HIPAA violation by Bambrola, unless the student shared that information with his classmates and staff.
That school officials might be embarrassed by certain revelations does not make them student privacy issues.
Likewise, there is a big difference between a parent knowing that a news story contains a reference to an incident involving their child and an actual FERPA or HIPAA violation where the school is actively releasing personally identifiable information about that child as it pertains to protected school records. Not every piece of information about a student in a school is a federally-protected record and quite a bit of personally identifiable information such as names, addresses and phone numbers is excluded from privacy protection as Directory information.
If a student punches a principal in the nose in his or her office that might be confidential information protected under FERPA.
If the student did the same thing in the cafeteria at lunch time in full view of 100 witnesses that would not be not confidential and not protected information under FERPA or HIPAA.
Apply that logic to the threat to shoot a teacher. If it really is the case that the threat to shoot a teacher was made to the school psychologist or social worker in her office (the F.U.S.E. complaint differs, stating the threat was made to “an aide”) then only the student and school psychologist or social worker knew of the threat initially.
During the PTA Meeting, Bambrola asked Dr. Dunning to explain the Risk Assessment interview process which she described as a “normative procedure developed by staff, I think, many years ago”, in other words, a series of questions whose answers can be scored by a trained professional to categorize the level of risk presented by a student.
If a Davis student is assessed as “low risk”, Dr. Dunning may call home and recommend monitoring and therapy services.
If a Davis student is assessed as “medium risk”, Dr. Dunning would recommend to parents or guardians the child be seen by a psychologist and evaluated. She would notify District staff at central office and the school team (the psychologist, social worker, Assistant Principal and Principal) which would meet to discuss the assessment and a course of action.
If a Davis student is assessed as “high risk”, Dr. Dunning would immediately confer with the school team, call EMS to transport the child to a hospital or psychiatric facility and require a statement from a psychiatrist saying the child was ready and able to return to school.
Not explained was the track record of this normative procedure developed by staff. To understand the efficacy of the procedure, and thus the degree of confidence in the procedure as a predictor or indicator of a propensity to act on violent impulses there would need to be a meaningful data set and a scientific analysis of that data set: How many students who are assessed as low risk go on to have a major episode or never have a major episode? How many students who have a major episode were not assessed before the major episode? What happens to those students after they age out and go on to other schools. As the Parkland School Shooting case shows, doing assessments in and of themselves, is not always a solution.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, questions have been raised regarding the (Parkland) district’s response to the student’s repeated disciplinary infractions. As everyone struggles to understand the reason for this devastating act, many members of the public have asked why, with his history of behavioral problems, this student was allowed to attend regular classes on a traditional school campus.
It was apparent from the information presented by the school team at the PTA Meeting that the student who threatened to shoot a teacher was assessed as “medium risk”.
If the threat to shoot a teacher was made in front of other students and staff there would be no privacy issue, as noted above, but there would be if the student made a threat in the school psychologist office and was assessed as medium risk because only the 4 members of the school team and some people at central office would know the threat had been made.
This is in the context of the Risk Assessment protocol which is a separate protocol from that described in the Building Emergency Response Plan for Davis which requires immediately calling the police. The police were never called in this case.
At the PTA Meeting, Bambrola and Hastie made a series of statements to the effect that the F.U.S.E. complaint was a FERPA violation because there were people in the school community including students, staff and parents who knew that the student who made the threat was the student referenced in the F.U.S.E. Complaint and, by extension, the subsequent news media accounts of the F.U.S.E. Complaint.
This makes no sense for two reasons:
First, if members of the school community knew the news media accounts of the shooting threat were in reference to the child who made those threats then they knew the identity of the child before the F.U.S.E. Complaint was even filed. They did not learn the identity of the child from the complaint or media accounts of the complaint, they already had that information. There cannot be a privacy violation regarding information that was known in the school community.
Second, if the threat was made in the school psychologist’s office and the assessment protocol followed, then only four people in the building were privy to information about the threat. If so, then how did members of the school community beyond the four members of the team know about the threat at all? The only way for that to happen is that between the time the threat was made last year and the complaint was filed last Thursday, the information had already been leaked by one or more of the team members and circulated within the school community. This would mean there was a FERPA violation but not by the F.U.S.E. Building Committee and certainly not by Talk of the Sound or News12 but by either the psychologist, the social worker, the Assistant Principal, the Principal or some combination thereof and that any FERPA violation, by definition, occurred before the F.U.S.E. complaint was filed last week.
Claims of FERPA and HIPAA privacy claims are like ketchup, you can put them on pretty much anything but it does not mean you should. School officials certainly try to pour FERPA and HIPPA on any information that might reflect poorly on them or the District. And when they do not have any actual FERPA or HIPAA privacy violations at the ready, they fall back on so-called “inferred” privacy violations.
The pretext of “inferred” privacy violations as it applies to the complaints about Davis take two forms, both fatally flawed.
One is a supposed inference from an incident witnessed by people at the school, like the story of the child injured running into the basketball pole. There is no privacy at all involving an event that takes place in plain sight in front of witnesses after which paramedics are called to the scene to treat then transport a student to a hospital.
The other supposed inference, and a primary topic at the PTA Meeting, involves an incident that takes place out of sight such as a conversation between a student and a school psychologist or social worker behind closed doors. At the meeting an effort was made to convey the idea that the threat by a student to leave the school, go home, get a gun, then return to school and shoot a teacher was made to Dr. Dunning or Ms. Cayanan in their office. If that were true then the identity of the student was a secret and so referencing the incident without naming the unknown student could not entail a privacy violation. The only way it could be a privacy violation is if the school team leaked the information.
About an hour into the meeting, Bambrola opened up the meeting to questions.
Most parents qualified their remarks by stating variations of their love of the school, the building leadership and the teachers.
Some parents expressed outrage with anyone who did not blindly support the school: “Get on this ship or get off”.
Some parents took the shoot the messenger approach: “The article brings negativity to our school that does not belong here”.
Jeffrey Hastie echoed this sentiment: “Some people have an agenda.”
Others did not like comments on social media: “People were mocking the ‘sensory gym’ (salt lamps)”.
But many parents expressed specific concerns that were consistent with the F.U.S.E. Building Committee complaint:
“I have heard complaints about staff not being supported.”
“Communication needs to be better, nobody tells us, just a crumb, you keep us out of the classes, push us out of the classroom.”
“Back in the day we were a Blue Ribbon School, it’s the reason people moved to the area.”
“I’ve seen things…scary moments…a teacher yelled, my son was terrified.”
One parent asked about the report of a student throwing feces.
“I cannot recall that in my time here,” said Bambrola. “It presents a disturbing image and I apologize.”
If it did not happen then why is Bambrola apologizing?
When one parent asked about the report of children being put out in the hallway because they were disruptive, Bambrola said “No, never” adding that such a thing would be “very demeaning, very isolating.” The parent pressed the point saying “At halloween I saw a student sitting outside a classroom alone…he was alone just sitting.” Bambrola said “I would love to learn more about that.”
From that a crosstalk discussion about context ensued “that sometimes a child needs to go out and have a minute by yourself, take a deep breath.” So, in one brief exchange, building leadership denied students would ever be placed alone in a hallway then moments later justified doing so as therapeutic.
When one parent asked whether the assessment of the student who threatened to bring a gun to school and shoot a teacher include going to the home, Dr. Dunning said she asked questions of the student then called the parents to ask if there was a gun in the home. In other words, “no.”
There may be many reasons a parent or guardian might not be truthful if asked about a gun in a home. The most obvious being that there might be an unregistered hand gun in the home, a felony. A school psychologist is not qualified or authorized to conduct an investigation into whether there is a gun in a private home. That is a police matter.
A parent asked about Talk of the Sound reporting that “there are ‘chew toys’ available to children to ‘work out their stress’”
“I don’t think its referred to as a chew toy,” said Bambrola.
One parent chimed in calling the report an “ignorant, uneducated comment.”
Moments later Davis Social Worker Heather Cayanan defended the use of what she called “chew toys” to help students to deal with stress. She repeatedly used the word “chew toys” noting the brand name of the chew toys was Chewelry, adding “chew toys is a good thing”.
So, in another brief exchange, building leadership denied students were given “chew toys” and moments later described “chew toys” as a good thing. The article did not express an opinion in the use of “chew toys” but merely reported (accurately) their use to help children reduce stress.
Another parent asked why families are not notified if someone threatens someone with a gun.
Brambola said it depended on the context, whether the threat was made in the presence of other students, whether it was made in a social worker’s office, whether it made amidst a panic attack.
He said if a violent threat was made in front of students he would tell parents immediately because he would not want students telling their parents about it without getting advanced notice from him.
This line of reasoning from the Building Leadership was prevalent throughout the meeting:
“These cases are unique.”
“Every situation is unique.”
“Each of these things has context.”
“A crisis can be described as anything.”
Bambrola did not explain why the setting where a threat was made mattered in regard to whether or not to call the police.
The board-approved Building Emergency Response Plan for Davis School (or any other school) does not qualify responses based on the “context” or “state of mind” of a person who calls in a bomb threat or stabs a student in a classroom or threatens to bring a gun to school and shoot a teacher. The protocol is consistent in each case: call the police. In practice, school officials and staff do not call police. When a student stabbed another student in a high school classroom no District employee called the police (police and paramedics only responded after a parent called 911, 15 minutes after the stabbing occurred).
At the District-Wide SAVE Team meeting last Friday, School Security Director Bruce Daniele said he was not allowed to call police if a student was the victim of a crime but he did not explain why he was not allowed to call police.
This is a point of tension in New Rochelle schools: the desire of some to place consideration for a particular student and their family over consideration for all of the other students and their families; the Risk Assessment Protocol versus the SAVE Security Protocol; privacy versus safety.
In response to another question, Bambrola denied the allegations in the F.U.S.E. Building Committee complaint that violence or threats of violence were not being properly reported.
“There is no sweeping under the rug in this building,” he said.
In the most bizarre, contradictory statement of the meeting, Bambrola cited FERPA and HIPAA and claims of student privacy to explain why he was so upset that the school shooting threat described in the F.U.S.E. Building Committee complaint had been made public then proceeded to confirm the information in the F.U.S.E. Building Committee complaint then added further detail — that the student was still enrolled at Davis, that the student was in 5th grade, that the student had been suspended. If Bambrola could say all this at a PTA Meeting, a public meeting, in front of dozens of people, and in front of the Board President, then he was either blatantly violating FERPA or HIPAA or student privacy during the PTA Meeting or he was being dishonest when he said he could not have said the same thing last year when the incident occurred. He was both asserting that disclosing details of the incident was a FERPA and HIPAA violation and not only disclosing details of the incident but disclosing new details including information that is certainly covered under FERPA, the disposition of a disciplinary matter.
Bambrola offered up a straw-man article to refute a claim not made by the F.U.S.E. Building Committee complaint.
“I don’t think this is a list of things that happened in the last couple of weeks like suddenly things have deteriorated,” he said. “It could be inferred this is a pattern with nothing to be done about it”.
The F.U.S.E. Building Committee complaint says “since September” there have been “too many incidents of children being physical with staff, including administration” and a concern that “threats have not been reported properly”. F.U.S.E. is not saying that “nothing” has been done but that the proper protocol has not been followed.
Overall, the response of the building leadership and the school board has been an attempt to deflect from the fact that the complaints emanating from Davis are coming not from a rogue teacher or a disgruntled parent but the union committee that represents teachers, staff and service related professionals in the building. The complaints are reminiscent of the complaints that were coming out of New Rochelle High School in the months prior to the spate of student violence last January – that District employees do not feel safe and believe building leadership is not listening to them.
On a related note, the school board, rather than address these concerns took action against the author of the article documenting these complaints. The day after Talk of the Sound ran our story on school violence at Davis, the New Rochelle Board of Education approved a resolution removing the author from the District-Wide SAVE Team which was addressed in an email to the SAVE Team:
From: Robert Cox <email@example.com>
Date: Nov 21, 2018, 11:32 AM -0500
To: SAVE Team <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Robert Cox kicked off SAVE Team
Dear SAVE Team members,
Without explanation or notice to me, I have been removed from the SAVE Team. No one contacted before last night’s meeting or after the meeting. I was not there so I am not sure exactly what happened, who voted or why only that Resolution 205 calls for deleting me off the SAVE Team.
As you likely know by now, Jeff White, one of our co-chairs is no longer with the District. The other co-chair, Chuck Strome told me no one spoke with him about any of this and he is not clear on the status of the committee.
I can only believe that Mr. Hastie and others were upset that I ran a story on Talk of the Sound based on information sent to our committee last Thursday regarding Davis Elementary School. I wish to speak to that.
As most of you know, I raised numerous complaints about the creation, promotion and use of the email@example.com email address. This was pushed forward despite my concerns, not least by Mr. Hastie, under the guise of “transparency” and “accountability”.
Now those chickens have come home to roost in a way he and other so-called proponents of “transparency” do not like.
Like all emails sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, the Davis email INSTANTLY became a public record.
The SAVE Team is state-mandated and is covered under New York State’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) and Open Meeting Law (OML).
Our records, including emails sent to email@example.com are public record under FOIL.
Our meetings are public and thus subject to OML.
Under OML, any record discussed at a public meeting automatically becomes a public record.
So, once the teacher at Davis sent her email it was a public record, and again when it was discussed at our meeting.
As you may recall Amy Ecker and Chuck Strome both raised concerns at our October meeting that complaints sent to the firstname.lastname@example.org email address were not being addressed, in particular that they were not on our agendas. I proposed to Mr. White and discussed with other committee members that we remedy that with a complaint tracking system. I offered to create a rudimentary version of what I conceived for the District-Wide Healthy and Safety Committee (RESCUE), in this case a word document template to organize the emails and any responses then compile them in a monthly report. A preliminary draft of this report was presented by me to the SAVE Team at our meeting on November 16th.
That report included the 7 emails we received to date, including the Davis email.
During the meeting, Amy Ecker and Board Member Christopher Daniello raised concerns about the complaint from Davis School.
For these reasons and others, the Davis email was a public record and the subject of a public discussion at a public meeting thus doubly so.
Now consider who receives emails sent to email@example.com. Those emails go to each member of the committee. The committee includes City Manager Charles B. Strome, New Rochelle Police Deputy Commissioner Robert Gazzola, and New Rochelle Fire Captain Barry Nechis.
The City of New Rochelle, the New Rochelle Police Department and New Rochelle Fire Department are separate agencies, each subject to FOIL, each with their own FOIL Compliance Officer.
Emails sent to those members of the SAVE Team are subject to FOIL through those three agencies.
To effectively fire me off the SAVE Team because I reported on a public record (5 times over) discussed in open session at a public meeting strikes me as unwarranted and an assault on a free press and a disservice to the community we are meant to serve. The public has a right to know when the FUSE Building Committee files the sort of public complaint contained in the letter which was sent not simply to “the SAVE Team” but to members which include the City Manager, the Deputy Police Commissioner, the Director of Security, the Director of Special Education & Alternative Services, an Assistant Superintendent, two school board members and others.
The public has a right to know if a student has threatened a school shooting.
I do not recall either of the two board members on the SAVE Team (Chris, Lianne) raising ANY concerns that the email from Davis should not be made public or not discussed at a public meeting.
On a committee where Mr. Hastie has made a habit from day one of micromanaging the committee, down to telling Mr. Daniello and Ms. Merchant what they can and cannot say at meetings during meetings, dictating changes to motions before the committee during meetings while the motion is on the table, ordering the removal of agenda items and so on, the silence of Mr. Daniello, Ms. Merchant and Mr. Hastie on the supposed confidential nature of this particular Davis email is deafening. Not only have none of them said a word about it to our committee as a body or me personally but Mr. Daniello openly discussed the email at our meeting and said he would raise it to his fellow board members at the next board meeting in public session.
I was asked by quite a few parents to attend the Davis PTA Meeting on Tuesday morning. I did attend the Davis PTA Meeting. On the dais were the Davis PTA Co-Chairs, the Principal, the Assistant Principal, the school psychologist, the school social worker, and the school board President.
There was a good deal said about FERPA violations because the email made reference to students who were allegedly identifiable in the email. I have no idea if that is true. I do not know who these students are or whether there was a FERPA violation or not but if there was one it was made by the person sending the email not by me. It became public record because people other than me INSISTED on having an open communication system based on the firstname.lastname@example.org email address which directly caused that email to become public record.
This as opposed to a database system like we have with the RESCUE Committee where complaints cannot see other people’s complainants, where everything is routed through a single school official (the Director of Facilities) and gets put into the public record through a report he creates (and can edit for confidentiality reasons, if warranted) and then is made public via another school official, our co-chair Webster Principal Melissa Passarelli. So, the system I devised there has filters and controls on information. As a member of the RESCUE committee, I routinely pushed not to actively solicit community input until we were properly set up to receive it which took more than a year.
If there is going to be some notion of being an accessory after the fact then it ought to apply not to volunteer members of the SAVE Team but to the District Employees and Board Members on the SAVE Team and, as noted, none of them raised the slightest concern about the fact of the Davis email before, during or after meeting and to this moment.
I listened very carefully at the Davis PTA Meeting. At no point during the meeting did anyone on the dais deny any aspect of the email, nor my article, which was based in part on the email and in part on complaints about Davis I have received and then confirmed from a half-dozen sources since September. In fact, they confirmed many items in the article ranging from major incidents to the use of “chew toys” with children.
Not only did they not deny it but the Principal expanded on the most explosive part of the Davis email which described a student making a threat to go home, get a gun, come back to school and shoot a particular teacher. Mr. Bambrola identified the student as a 5th grader and stated that the student was suspended. I do not see how Mr. Hastie can claim that the email we received is a FERPA violation because it identifies a particular student and yet sits beside Mr. Bambrola and says nothing as the Principal confirms the information in the email, narrows the identity further by stating the student is in 5th grade and announcing that the student was suspended from the school. Disclosing the disciplinary disposition of a matter involving a student is a clear and unambiguous violation of FERPA. So what action is being taken against Bambrola?
As I am now kicked off this committee, I would close by encouraging my former colleagues to consider the actual issue revealed by the Davis email: that school leadership failed to call the police, as is the protocol under the BERP, in a case where a student did not just make an off-the-cuff remark but told someone of a specific plan to commit a school shooting, at a specific school, involving a specific type of weapon and their an intent to use that weapon, in a specific way to do harm to a particular individual. I have taken active shooter training. I expect that at the very least, Mr. Daniello, Mr. Daniele and Deputy Commissioner Gazzola, and perhaps other SAVE Team members, have as well. I will leave it to them to explain at a future meeting but the case described in the email describes clear red-flag behavior that warranted immediate police involvement.
In any case, it was a pleasure to serve with you on the SAVE Team. I can only hope other members will strive to main the integrity of the committee by resisting attempts by Mr. Hastie or anyone else to interfere with the state-mandated function of the team under the SAVE Law.
UPDATE: reply from the sole remaining SAVE Co-Chair
From: Strome, Chuck <Cstrome@newrochelleny.com>
Date: Nov 21, 2018, 11:35 AM -0500
To: Robert Cox <email@example.com>, SAVE Team <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: RE: Robert Cox kicked off SAVE Team
Just for the record – Board President Hastie advised me of this through an email this morning. I was not aware prior to the action nor at the time Mr. Cox asked me about it last night.