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School Safety Talk Brings Together Educator, Law Enforcement, Government

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Members of law enforcement, school superintendents from six Southern Tier counties and politicians met Monday for a frank discussion on school safety. At the summit, hosted by State Senator Fred Akshar, talk ranged from funding for new security measures, support for mental health.

 School leaders agree finding solutions are not easy and answers are not black and white.

"What Union-Endicott needs and has is different than a rural district, said Dr. Suzanne McLeod, superintendent for Union-Endicott schools.

At the root of the discussion at the state office building in downtown were two topics:  funding to update security and more support for mental health.
"It would be beneficial if someone in a leadership position had the ability to, in essence, mandate some counseling," said McLeod.

But getting students help is not only difficult , due process and federal privacy laws can make it impossible.

"Under the HIPPA law, you can't give information, something you know here with this person to somebody else, said Broome County Sheriff David Harder.

According to Harder, that makes it tough for police to share information with schools. Harder adds that even in the case of a student threatening to harm himself, if the student's name is released, police are barred from informing the school.

"There are limitations on sharing information," said Harder.

It is the same for students arrested for violent crimes.

Akshar says some of the issues heard today could be addressed with changes to current legislation or the introduction of new bills, while others would require more funding in the New York State budget.