November 22, 2000
SCHOOL VIOLENCE AND CRISIS INTERVENTION
By: Jennifer Gelb, Research Attorney
You asked if the State Board of Education (1) requires local boards to have crisis intervention plans and (2) has guidelines for local boards on developing such plans. You also wanted to know what legislation has been adopted in other states since the Columbine High School shooting regarding policies for dealing with school crises, threats, and violence.
The State Board of Education (SBE) does not require local boards to have crisis intervention plans. The board does not have guidelines for local boards to develop crisis intervention programs, but the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education and other organizations have produced models and suggested guidelines. Many states have enacted legislation in the wake of the Columbine tragedy, including requirements regarding possession of firearms, expulsion, and school safety plans.
The SBE does not require local school boards to have crisis intervention plans, nor has it published specific guidelines for the local boards to use. The Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE), however, has created its own guidelines for local boards and districts. Its “Proposed Crisis Management Plan” suggests that the superintendent of a district appoint a district-wide crisis management coordinator who will create building level teams and liaisons for the schools. Building level teams are led by the school principal and comprised of members of the building staff, including teachers, administrators, and others. In the event of a crisis, the principal will follow crisis procedures, identify the students most affected, debrief and review with faculty members, and determine appropriate memorial measures. The plan also identifies the individual responsibilities of the media, law enforcement, medical, funeral home/clergy, parent, and counseling/psychological liaisons. CABE's “Crisis Response” plan contains additional and more detailed suggestions for dealing with the aftermath of a crisis situation, including modes for disseminating information to students.
In its “Major Components of a Comprehensive Crisis Prevention Program,” CABE offers a checklist to schools regarding crisis prevention, intervention, management, aftercare, and recovery. All of the CABE materials are attached for your reference.
According to Scott Newgass, coordinator of the School Crisis Prevention and Response Initiative, 60% to 70% of Connecticut school districts use school crisis prevention practices. His organization has trained approximately 40% of the school districts in the state, and another 30% to 40% use the information as guidelines in developing their own policies. The initiative looks for an organizational response to a crisis. There are typical situations that arise in a crisis, so they can be anticipated. The initiative focuses on disseminating information, assessing and determining needs, training staff for general discussion with students, identifying those students who need additional assistance, and memorializing and following up. Mr. Newgass is happy to speak with you if you would like additional information. His telephone number is (203) 785-5649.
Many states have enacted legislation dealing with school violence in the wake of recent incidents such as the Columbine High School tragedy of April 20, 1999. Several bills and acts are summarized in the National Conference of State Legislatures publication “Select School Safety Enactments (1994 – 2000),” Education Commission of the States (ECS) State Notes “Summary of State Policies on School Safety and Violence,” and ECS Selected State Policies.
School Crisis Response Plans
Alaska, Georgia, New York, Ohio, and Virginia all require local school boards to develop school safety and crisis response plans. Indiana law provides for an executive session to discuss the assessment, design, and implementation of school safety and security measures, plans, and systems. A public law in Maine develops a response plan for violent or potentially violent situations. Nevada has created the Commission on School Safety and Juvenile Violence to develop an emergency response plan and make recommendations to the legislature regarding school violence prevention and intervention.
Several states have established or expanded penalties for threats. Florida requires a one-year expulsion and referral to the juvenile authorities for making a false report or threat about the safety of school property. Michigan schools can expel a student for up to 180 days for making verbal threats or bomb threats. A bill passed in North Carolina increases the criminal penalty for making a bomb threat. New Mexico's False Reporting Act of 1999 addresses civil liability for false reporting of an incident or a bomb, and also requires educating minors about the dangers of false reporting. A recent Maryland law prohibits threats by telephone and e-mail as well as threats against school employees arising out of the scope of their employment. Vermont has strengthened its policies regarding bomb threats, including making threats sent over the Internet or by other means of electronic transmission punishable criminal offenses.
A new Arkansas law requires school principals to report all threats or acts of violence on school property. A new law in Oregon requires district school boards to develop policies to manage students who threaten violence or harm in public school, including immediate removal of a student from the classroom for threatening physical harm.
School Violence Prevention
Recent laws in Alaska, California, Maine, and Massachusetts require school districts to develop and implement violence prevention programs. California also mandates that K-7 schools develop school safety plans that address, among other things, school-based crime, crime prevention, and notification regarding dangerous pupils. Colorado and Utah require their respective State Boards of Education to evaluate and report on school violence prevention programs.
Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, North Carolina, and Tennessee all require a one-year expulsion for any student in possession of a firearm or other weapon on school property. Hawaii has broadened the state zero tolerance policy for dangerous weapons on school property or during school activities. Idaho has revised the circumstances under which students, their lockers, or their possessions may be searched. Maryland prohibits a person from molesting or threatening with bodily harm any individual on school grounds, in school vehicles, at school activities, or in the immediate vicinity of the school. A Washington law provides for additional investigation when a student is charged with possession of a firearm on school property, including a 72-hour detention, mental health examination and evaluation, chemical dependency examination and evaluation, and a locker search.
The recent New Hampshire Pupil Safety and Violence Prevention Act requires local school boards to adopt a pupil safety and violence prevention policy that addresses bullying. New Mexico has requested assistance from the state departments of education and health in identifying troubled children and recommending intervention and training plans to help teachers deal with these students. An Oregon law encourages school districts to form a safe school alliance composed of schools, law enforcement agencies, juvenile justice agencies, and district attorneys to provide the safest possible school environment.