Buffalo ISD Code of Conduct and Assault

A recent allegation of a criminal assault(s) was made at Buffalo High School on or about December 6th. Law enforcement was not notified until or about December 11th. As of December 14th, the alleged victim(s) and the alleged violator(s) remained in the same school and sometimes same classrooms. The students involved also continued to play on the same sports team.

According to contacts with two attorneys, the school?s responsibility is to notify local law enforcement when they are told of allegations of a crime. Time is of the essence and law officials will interview alleged victims and alleged violators and any witnesses to determine if a crime has been committed. This should be done the same day as a school administrator learns of a possible crime. None of the students involved should be called in for interviews by school officials.

Steps that should take place in Leon County when law enforcement is notified of allegations of a crime against a child is for law enforcement to take the victim and witnesses to the county?s forensic interviewers. If the interviewers determine the likelihood that a criminal act has occurred, they will turn the matter over to prosecutors. It is important that the interviews with forensic investigators occur as soon as possible and days should not be allowed to expire without those interviews.

At the school board meeting, Monday, December 17th, the board was asked if the school policy was followed in contacting law enforcement after serious allegations were made on December 6th. There was no response to the question.

The board went into a closed session to discuss two items. One of the items: ?consideration regarding student discipline issue?. When the board returned to open session there was no comment made about the closed item topics.

Buffalo ISD has a Code of Conduct in place for students, school administrators, and parents. The Code of Conduct can be found by going to the Buffalo ISD website, clicking ?high school?, and then ?Code of Conduct?.

Page 5 deals with the reporting of a crime. ?The principal or campus behavior coordinator and other school administrators shall report crimes as required by law and call local law enforcement when an administrator suspects a crime has been committed on campus.?

It is not prescribed that the school administrators do an investigation or attempt to determine if a crime has occurred, only to report the suspicion of a crime to law enforcement.

Page 20 of the Code of Conduct states that a student must be placed in a Disciplinary Alternative Education Program (DAEP) for certain offenses including assault. Assault is defined as intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing bodily injury to another, threatening another with bodily injury, and causing physical contact with another that can reasonably be regarded as offensive or provocative.

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) also states that once a school administrator is made aware of a criminal act, they are required to report it to local law enforcement. The school is responsible for what occurs after the initial report.

If the Buffalo ISD reported this case in a timely manner to the proper law enforcement, and law enforcement failed to follow their protocol as described, the school could have separated the alleged violator(s) from the victim(s) in order to protect the victim(s) from further physical abuse and/or continued verbal harassment.

According to the National School Safety and Security Services, school administrators should report crimes because, first, it is the right thing to do. Schools are not islands of lawlessness. It is not debatable as to whether or not there is an option to report.

Second, reporting is the first step in managing and preventing violence because it acknowledges the problem.

And third, a disservice is done to all students if we teach them that a crime can be committed at school and there are no criminal justice consequences.