St. Paul, Minn. – Senator Karla Bigham (DFL-Cottage Grove) is bringing a focus on public safety to her first bill introductions of the 2019-20 legislative session. Today, Sen. Bigham introduced bipartisan legislation to keep students safe in schools by requiring school districts to establish threat assessment teams. According to the legislation (S.F.177) threat assessment teams would be responsible for the assessment of and intervention with individuals whose behavior may pose a threat to the safety of school staff or students.
“This bipartisan legislation is the result of conversations we have had with our local law enforcement officials and local school officials to provide processes to increase student safety,” said Sen. Bigham. “Threat assessment teams are a common-sense tool using a facts-based approach in keeping our students safe.”
Threat assessment for schools is a fact-based process developed by the U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Department of Education that helps schools evaluate and assess potentially threatening students or situations. Based on the 2002 Safe School Initiative, the threat assessment process attempts to prevent school violence by encouraging schools to increase awareness and examine potentially threatening behaviors using an integrated team approach.
“School threat assessment has been recommended as a best practice by the U.S. Department of Education, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the U.S. Secret Service. It is a three-step model in which a team identifies students of concern, gathers information about their behavior and circumstances to assess whether they pose a risk of harm to themselves or the school community, and develops a management plan to mitigate that risk.,” said Randy J. McAlister, Certified Threat Manager (CTM)™ and Captain for the City of Cottage Grove Police Department.
The bipartisan legislation would require teams that must include individuals with expertise in counseling, mental health, kindergarten through grade 12 instruction, school administration, and law enforcement. The membership may include the juvenile prosecutor whose jurisdiction includes the area within the school district. Each school district can establish a committee responsible for oversight of threat assessment teams.
School threat assessment is not intended to profile or seek out students who exhibit certain traits, but rather to assist schools in evaluating student behaviors or reports of threatened violence. When conducting a threat assessment, the central question to keep in mind is whether a student’s behavior poses a threat—not simply whether a student makes a threat. The legislation is endorsed by the Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association and the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association.
Senator Bigham has also introduced bipartisan legislation (S.F. 235) that would eliminate marriage as a defense for rape – a necessary and critical update to Minnesota law that will help victims of sexual violence. The legislation will help victims have stronger legal protections under the law in these situations.
On Monday, Sen. Bigham also appeared at two press conferences in support of safety measures to reduce distracted driving. The first was supporting bipartisan ‘hands-free’ cell phone legislation (S.F.91), which would require drivers to use their cell phones in a ‘hands-free’ mode, such as voice-activated calls or other actions. The second was for legislation enhancing penalties for texting while driving (S.F. 77) legislation that Sen. Bigham is a co-author on.
About Senator Karla Bigham
Karla Bigham is a state senator who represents Cottage Grove, Hastings, South St. Paul, St. Paul Park, Newport, Afton and neighboring townships. She is a member of the following committees: Environment and Natural Resources Finance; and Veterans and Military Affairs Finance and Policy.