New DASA guidelines for assault reporting revealed by state after News 12 report

There were at least four violent attacks that were caught on camera at Newburgh Free Academy during the 2021-22 school year.  Information and Reporting Services

Blaise Gomez

Nov 13, 2023, 11:21 PM

Updated 250 days ago

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News 12 is investigating how school violence is reported to the state under the Dignity for All Students Act after News 12 uncovered multiple assaults in Newburgh that appear to have never been disclosed. 
There were at least four violent attacks that were caught on camera at Newburgh Free Academy during the 2021-22 school year. 
That’s the most recent year the state has the school’s compiled DASA data – which is supposed to document incidents like these but shows none.
The Education Department says as of June 2023, there are three individual requirements for a DASA report to be filed for an assault, a sexual assault or weapons possession which include one of the following: a minimum student age of 10, the incident is considered a felony and/or was reported to police. 
All of the incidents News 12 reported on in the 2021-22 school year seemingly met those requirements, but the district says that may not be the case.  
Newburgh Enlarged City School District Communications Specialist Cassie Skarlz referred News 12 to the state guidance on DASA reporting by email and said, “In most cases, the students and/or their families have to agree to involve the police and press charges. At that time, the law enforcement agency involved will determine the charges based on the incident.” 
“There are multiple things to consider. Police may be contacted, but the student/family may never move to press charges. Additionally, if reported and followed through with, based on the changed guidelines set forth by the School Safety and the Educational Climate, the charges would have to be a felony,” Skarlz continued. “Second, there is a set due process timeline required by the district to hold students accountable to the standards set forth in the Code of Conduct. This timeline coincides with the reporting timeline. The timeline for an individual to press criminal charges can be much longer. If the incident involves a minor, the district may never be made aware of the charges that are filed, if and when it does get to that point. DASA is clearly defined. Some of the instances you’ve shared may not constitute a DASA report.” 
At least two of the incidents in 2021-22 involved police and resulted in criminal charges, according to the information News 12 received at the time by district officials and police. 
“It’s a watchdog situation. You don’t want to have a school with a bad reputation,” says longtime educator Roy Reese. 
Reese, who lives in Orange County and most recently worked as the superintendent of schools in Tuxedo, isn’t familiar with the Newburgh School District but has more than 50 years of experience in education administration. He says DASA reports can take hours, must be done within days of an incident and are factored into a school’s overall rating. 
“If you don’t have a safe school, it’s not good,” Reese says. “Schools are critically important to a successful community. If you talk to a real estate agent, one of the things they like to do best is brag about the schools.” 
As News 12 has reported, Newburgh has struggled with violent crime rates and gang crimes during ongoing revitalization efforts. Earlier this year, the city hired a PR firm to help bolster its image. 
According to the website niche.com, Newburgh ranked among the worst school districts in Orange County with a B-minus rating. 
Newburgh Board of Education President Darren Stridiron says he’s renewing calls for the state to appoint a monitor following the findings. 
“The reporting appears to be inconsistent with what I have observed over that time period,” says Stridiron. “I continue to ask for the commissioner to send in a monitor to review everything happening here."
The DASA reporting guidelines were changed last June. 
News 12 began its investigation into the data last Friday following the recent assault of an NFA teen who was visibly injured following an attack captured on student cellphone video. 
A representative for the City of Newburgh says an underage student was arrested Nov. 2 following the assault. The Newburgh School District says a DASA report was filed in that incident. 


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