In a new report on the prevention of and response to violence in schools and on college campuses, a bipartisan task force of state attorneys general concludes the reporting of school crimes is “inconsistent and inaccurate” and “does not promote true accountability” on the part of schools and states.
Following the Virginia Tech massacre in April, the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) Task Force on School and Campus Safety resolved to consider what had transpired since its 1999 report on youth violence and school safety, and circulate a new report making updated recommendations.
The task force, co-chaired by Colorado Attorney General John Suthers and Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch, has since reviewed numerous documents and conducted four national telephone conferences, during which it heard testimony from 12 nationally recognized experts on school and campus safety.
It found that, though the majority of states have voluntarily adopted–or been mandated to prepare–emergency management plans, too many plans have become “stale and outdated” in the past several years.
Currently, most states provide funding and other resources to school districts for emergency preparedness and response. Forty-seven states reported providing guidance and 37 states reported providing training to school districts.
However, “most schools are not conducting regular exercises to test their plans or revise them as necessary,” the report says, and the majority of districts that have emergency plans are “not involving community partners, including law enforcement, in developing, practicing, and updating their plans.”
The report recommends that state legislators require all schools and colleges receiving state funding to create, maintain, and update emergency management plans. It also suggests that schools take advantage of available technology–as well as the fact that most students now carry mobile communication devices–by implementing “multi-modal means of communication ranging from low-tech systems (such as loud speakers), to high-tech delivery mechanisms (including text messaging and web-based incident command systems).” Schools also must be sure that contact information for students, faculty, and staff is kept current on at least an annual basis, it says.
Among the report’s additional recommendations:
Schools and colleges should establish a system by which disturbing behavior is reported to an individual or multidisciplinary team of individuals with expertise and training in risk assessment, who can assess the information received and put into action an appropriate response.
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.
Every school and college should have mechanisms in place to allow 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.
The Task Force circulated its first ever set of recommendations in 1999 in response to the tragic incident at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., when two students shot and killed twelve of their peers before killing themselves.
NAAG Campus Safety Task Force 2007 report
NAAG’s Campus Safety Task Force