Nassau DA forms task force for safe schools and communities

The Nassau County district attorney on Tuesday convened a new school and community safety task force to promote preparedness and improve information sharing.

"It's important to have different voices so that we're acting now when we have clarity and there's calm as opposed to when a crisis comes," D.A. Madeline Singas said.

The inaugural meeting comes at a time when many are questioning safety, especially in schools after the Parkland shooting. There are over 200,000 students in Nassau County alone.

"We have lots of members in the task force, many of them from the police commission to the county executive, people in health services," Singas said. "We have educators, we have religious leaders, we have prosecutors, we have mental health professionals, students."

Syosset High School seniors Andrew Goldman and Brooke Matalon led the walkout in their school earlier this month. On this day, they hoped to send a clear message to community leaders.

"We're very passionate about this issue. We're going to become eligible to vote," Goldman said. "If reforms aren't made that don't suffice and don't try and stop the issue, then we're just going to vote those elected officials… out of office."

Matalon added, "We cannot grow as human beings and grow as individuals in our school if we're surrounded by the fear every day that we could be next."

The task force hopes to address issues of mental health and the fine line between sharing important information and violating privacy laws. Special education teacher Tomia Smith of the Massapequa School District said there should be exceptions without risking the confidentiality aspect.

"That is definitely something that has to be very carefully handled," Smith said. "But it comes to a point if there is someone that is thought to possibly be a threat to other students—at that point, people involved with that student need to be aware that there are concerns."

The group plans to enhance the security of public buildings and places of worship. Rev. Philip Elliot, bishop of the Antioch Baptist Church, said that listening to the people in the community is important.

"One of the most critical things I've heard is the importance of intervention and prevention as opposed to just law enforcement," Elliot said.

The task force is set to meet again in April to share ideas and propose solutions.