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Attorney General Baker Calls for Federal and Statewide Reforms to Increase School and College Campus Safety

PRESS ADVISORY

Attorney General Baker Calls for Federal and Statewide Reforms to Increase School and College Campus Safety

September 6, 2007

Call to Action Follows Report of National Task Force of Attorneys General that Baker Appointed to Examine Virginia Tech School Massacre

September 6, 2007 --- Attorney General Thurbert Baker 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. Shortly after the Virginia Tech tragedy, Baker, then president of the National Association of Attorneys General, established an ad hoc Task Force on School and Campus Safety comprised of 27 Attorneys General to make recommendations regarding the prevention of, and response to, violence in schools and on college campuses.

Today, Baker released a 14-page report that included specific recommendations on threat assessment, protocols for dealing with the mentally ill, information sharing among law enforcement agencies, and crisis response planning and communications.

“With the assistance of nationally-recognized experts in the field of school and campus security, we have compiled a 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,” Baker said.

“Students must have the opportunity to learn in an environment that is as secure as possible from the threat of violence,” he added. “Attorneys General are committed to doing whatever is necessary to make our nation’s schools and campuses as safe as possible.”

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 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.
  • 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 designed primarily to identify the legislative and policy weaknesses that we must correct for the safety our educational institutions,” Baker said.

A copy of the report can be obtained here.

The members of the Task Force are: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, District of Columbia, Georgia, Guam, Idaho, Illinois, 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.