Attorney General Paul Morrison says school safety is severely lacking and Thursday he called for a change.
Morrison says serious deficiencies in federal and state laws and educational policies leave students vulnerable to violence in their schools and on college campuses. To address the problem, Morrison, as a member of the National Association of Attorneys General Task Force on School and Campus Safety, released a 14-page report that includes specific recommendations. The recommendations address threat assessment, protocols for dealing with the mentally ill, information sharing among law enforcement agencies and other stakeholders, and crisis response planning and communications.
"The goal of this report is to stimulate dialogue among policy makers, educational administrators, law enforcement professionals and others as they examine school and campus safety issues," Morrison said in a statement. "With assistance from nationally recognized experts in the field of school and campus security, we have compiled a brief report that brings to focus a number of key issues that have surfaced as a result of the recent tragedy on the campus of Virginia Tech and eruptions of violence in schools across the country."
A release from Morrison's office listed among recommendations in the report:
* All schools and colleges should establish a system whereby disturbing behavior is reported to an individual or multidisciplinary team of individuals with expertise and training in risk assessment that can assess the information received and put into action an appropriate response. Students, parents, faculty and other community stakeholders should be made aware of the reporting mechanism.
* State and federal lawmakers should examine privacy laws in an effort to remove barriers to effective information sharing. Appropriate state and federal agencies should clarify how information, including mental health records, can be shared under existing state and federal laws.
* States should modify or enhance state laws to ensure that all information that is relevant to federal firearms laws is shared with the National Instant Criminal Background System, especially for individuals disqualified from purchasing or possessing firearms for mental health reasons. The U.S. Department of Justice should provide clear guidance to jurisdictions on the scope of relevant records. Kansas is currently one of 23 state already providing this information to the NICS.
* State legislators should mandate that all schools and colleges that receive state funding create, maintain, and update emergency management plans.
* Colleges should implement a multi-point, redundant communication system that leverages existing technology and provides information to as many people as possible as quickly as possible.
* Every school and college should have mechanisms in place to allow for the anonymous reporting of perceived threats by students or faculty. The system should include educational outreach and effective follow-up by trained professionals.
* States should continue to implement and expand bullying prevention measures, including cyber bullying.
"This report is not designed to comprehensively address all of the issues related to school and campus security but to identify some of the legislative and policy weaknesses that impact the safety our educational institutions," Morrison said.
Morrison will also share this report with the Governor's Commission on Healthy and Prepared Schools. The task force included attorneys general from Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Guam, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
For a copy of the report, visit www.ksag.org.