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Attorneys General Call For Federal And Statewide Reforms To Increase School And College Campus Safety

September 6, 2007

National Task Force on School and Campus Safety Issues Report

WASHINGTON, D.C. --- Twenty-seven (27) Attorneys General today issued a call to federal and state leaders to address serious deficiencies in federal and state laws and educational policies that leave students vulnerable to violence in their schools and on college campuses.

Members of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) Task Force on School and Campus Safety released a 14-page report that includes specific recommendations that 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 27-member Task Force1, chaired by Colorado Attorney General John Suthers and Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch, was convened to update a 1999 report issued by NAAG to address issues surrounding school violence. Although much of the information in the 1999 report remains relevant, the ad hoc group was created to update recommendations and determine what issues have been brought into sharper focus as a result of the tragedy at Virginia Tech.

“The expectation that our students would learn in safe, secure environments that was for so long a part of our shared, national psyche has been shattered by Columbine, Jonesboro, Virginia Tech, and other eruptions of violence that occur with a disturbing frequency in schools and on campuses across America,” Attorney General Lynch said.

“Whereas several of the reports issued in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech tragedy have been voluminous and exhaustive, the goal of our report was to be brief and concise and to stimulate dialogue among school administrators and policy makers on a few key issues,” Attorney General Suthers said.

Recommendations from the Task Force include:

  • 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 consider modifying or enhancing 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.
  • 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.

View copies of the September 2007 and 1999 school safety reports.

For more information, call (202) 326-6027.

1The members of the Task Force are: 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.

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