FRANKFORT, KY (September 6, 2007) -- Attorney General Stumbo today called on federal and state leaders to improve laws and educational policies that may leave students vulnerable to violence in schools and on college campuses.
As a member of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) Task Force on School and Campus Safety, Attorney General Stumbo released a 14-page report that includes specific recommendations for improved student security. Among the topics addressed in the report are threat assessment, protocols for dealing with the mentally ill, information sharing among law enforcement agencies and first responders, and crisis response planning and communications.
"Kentucky is unfortunately no stranger to school violence," Attorney General Stumbo said. "Following the Heath High School shooting tragedy, I worked with fellow legislators to pass HB 330, which established the Kentucky Center for School Safety. This put Kentucky in the forefront of improving school safety. Our universities have also taken vital steps to enhance campus safety as a result of the Virginia Tech tragedy. The goal of this report is to continue the dialogue among policy makers, educational administrators, law enforcement professionals and others as they examine school and campus safety issues."
With assistance from nationally recognized experts in the field of school and campus security, the NAAG Task Force compiled a practical report that focuses on key issues.
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.
"It is our hope that the report will help identify some of the legislative and policy weaknesses that impact the safety of our educational institutions," Attorney General Stumbo said. "Along with the anticipated reports of the Kentucky Task Force on Campus Safety and Council of Post Secondary Education's Steering Committee on Campus Safety, we hope it will provide policy makers valuable insight on legislative and campus policy changes necessary to provide effective school and campus security."
For a copy of the report, visit http://tinyurl.com/324jqo
In May, Attorney General Greg Stumbo joined the 27-member Task Force*, chaired by Colorado Attorney General John Suthers and Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch, which 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 address issues brought into sharper focus as a result of the tragedy at Virginia Tech.
"I am deeply concerned about student safety. We must establish schools that are as secure as possible from the threat of violence," Attorney General Stumbo said. "And I am calling upon the Governor and legislative leaders to take up the recommendations made in this report along with the Kentucky Task Force on Campus Safety report which will be released in the near future."
*The 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.