School Safety

Feb 19, 2013

Public schools would be required to establish threat assessment teams and procedures under legislation that has advanced in the House of Delegates.

The measure is a recent recommendation of the Governor’s Task Force on School and Campus safety—which was created after the Connecticut school shootings. It takes a practice already used at the college level and adapts it to elementary, middle, and high schools.

Under the bill, schools would form teams and implement best practices to assess students whose behavior could pose a safety threat to the staff or students.  They would also make plans for intervention, including referrals to community services boards or health-care providers for evaluation or treatment.  Delegate Joe Morrissey wondered about how threats would be defined and if the bill protects student privacy.  He was also concerned about students who are simply not well-behaved.

“What safeguards do we have that these voluntary members of this threat assessment team would not abuse their position to get the medical records of a 4th-grader who created some disruptive behavior?” asked Morrisey.

Delegate Scott Ligamfelter said local leaders would be in charge.

“I trust the principals and the senior leadership of people that have been put in authority of our schools.  They are consummate professionals.  They will be at the helm in selecting these very fine people.  I don’t think that they’re going to select people that are not capable to do this.”

To alleviate privacy concerns, the House deleted a reference to student criminal and health information.  The bill faces a final House vote before heading to the Senate.