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Report On School And Campus Safety Issued By Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, National Association Of Attorneys General Task Force

 

MADISON -- Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen joined states attorneys general across the nation by issuing a report today including recommendations to policymakers, law enforcement, and school officials on how to better protect students vulnerable to violence in their schools and on college campuses.

 

Van Hollen is a member of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) Task Force on School and Campus Safety. The Task Force's 14-page report contains specific recommendations addressing threat assessment, protocols for dealing with the mentally ill, information sharing among law enforcement agencies and other stakeholders, and crisis response planning and communications.

 

"I hope this report will further stimulate the discussion among dialogue among policy makers, educational administrators, law enforcement professionals and others as they examine school and campus safety issues," Van Hollen said. "The Task Force heard testimony from a number of nationally recognized experts in the field of school and campus security. Through consideration of that testimony and dialogue with one another, we were able to make some common sense recommendations that, if implemented, will help to minimize the frequency and severity of campus tragedies such as occurred at Virginia Tech."

 

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.

 

"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 shortcomings common among the states," Van Hollen said. "Legislative progress is already being made in Wisconsin consistent with some of these recommendations. For example, Senator Darling introduced legislation this session that would facilitate state record keeping and information sharing with the federal government and help prevent individuals disqualified for mental health reasons from purchasing or possessing firearms."

 

"Governor Doyle, too, is playing an important role in the formulation of school safety policy by convening a state Task Force of Campus Safety, on which I have appointed Gary Hamblin, Administrator for the Department of Justice's Division of Law Enforcement Services, to serve," Van Hollen continued. "That task force will be developing campus safety recommendations by year's end."

 

"My office stands by ready to assist state officials, law enforcement, and school officials with implementing common sense school safety solutions, such as those contained in the report released today," Van Hollen said.

 

 

The NAAG Task Force on School and Campus Safety was chaired by Colorado Attorney General John Suthers and Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch, and 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.

 

In addition to Van Hollen, members of the Task Force included state 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, and West Virginia.

 

 

A copy of the NAAG Task Force on School and Campus Safety report is available on the Wisconsin Department of Justice website below: