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Making Schools Safer By Facilitating Information Sharing

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen Testified Today Before the Legislative Council Special Committee on School Safety


MADISON - Atorney General J.B. Van Hollen testified today before the Legislative Council Special Committee on School Safety. He focused on ways Wisconsin law can be changed to facilitate information sharing and enhance school safety.


"Schools are not islands separate from society," said Van Hollen. "They are integral parts of communities. The public safety issues that plague communities are present and sometimes intensified at schools. While shootings and other acts of violence at school are rare, they are not rare enough."


"Just yesterday, we learned the tragic news that a 15-year old Milwaukee schoolgirl died from wounds suffered last week in an afterschool fight. It is a sober reminder that no community is immune from violence. No child is ever completely safe from crime," said Van Hollen. "Wisconsin's schoolchildren are targets for sex predators. Schools can be marketplaces for illicit drugs; kids, buyers and sellers. And high school and even middle school campuses can be recruiting grounds for gangs."


"We all recognize that violence and crime at school can undermine the education of all students," said Van Hollen. "To borrow the motto of Milwaukee Public School's Safety Division, Education first, safety always.'"


Encouraging legislative change to facilitate access to information, Van Hollen stated, "Law should permit the sharing of information, at the very least, with those who have a need for that information to make informed decisions and undertake informed actions. In the school safety context, this means educators, administrators and law enforcement that are charged with protecting kids and the school community."


Van Hollen's specific recommendations for legislative action to facilitate information included:


  • Making state law no more restrictive than federal law when it comes to sharing information relating to school safety with law enforcement authorities;
  • Repealing laws that limit school officials ability to share with one another information that a pupil poses a physical safety risk to others;
  • Simplifying information sharing with law enforcement, requiring school districts to provide records of a law enforcement agency who need the information for a juvenile justice purpose;
  • Ensuring that school liaison officers have equal access to records as teachers; and
  • Enabling mandatory notification to schools of criminal proceedings involving a K-12 student being tried in adult court.


In addition, the Attorney General suggested that the legislature consider mandatory reporting of certain criminal activities occurring on school grounds to authorities. He also encouraged school districts to designate law enforcement units, use school liaison officers, and ensure that safety information gets to individuals within the school district skilled in threat assessment so appropriate safety strategies can be implemented.


A copy of his prepared remarks is attached.