Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff recently called on federal and state lawmakers to address deficiencies in educational guidelines that leave students vulnerable to violence in public schools and on college campuses.
As a member of the National Association of Attorneys General Task Force on School and Campus Safety, Shurtleff released a 14-page report outlining specific recommendations addressing threat assessment, protocols for dealing with the mentally ill, information sharing among law enforcement agencies and stakeholders, crisis response planning and communications.
"This report should spark a change in the way policy makers, school administrators and law enforcement officers deal with school and campus safety issues," indicated Shurtleff. "Some of the top experts in the country helped us define the lessons to be learned from the tragedies at Virginia Tech and other schools."
The task force recommendations include:
All schools and colleges should have a system to report disturbing behavior to someone who can assess the risk and offer an appropriate response. Students, parents and faculty should be taught how to make the reports.
Officials should examine privacy laws to remove barriers to effective information sharing.
State and federal agencies should clarify how information, including mental health records, can be shared under existing laws.
States should consider modifying or enhancing state laws to make sure all information 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 on the scope of relevant records.
State legislators should mandate all state funded schools and colleges to create, maintain, and update emergency management plans.
Colleges should implement a multi-point, redundant communication systems that uses existing technology to provide information to as many people as possible as quickly as possible.
Every school and college should have a plan that allows anonymous reporting of perceived threats. The public should be aware of the plan and trained professionals should be available to follow-up on the tips.
States should continue to implement and expand bullying prevention measures, including cyber-bullying.
"This report does not cover everything but it will go a long way to identify some critical weaknesses and implement significant changes to make schools safer," says Shurtleff.
In addition to Utah, the members of the task force include 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, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.