St. Paul, Minn. – Senator Karla Bigham (DFL-Cottage Grove) and Representative Keith Franke (GOP-St. Paul Park) on Monday introduced bipartisan legislation to keep students safe in schools by requiring school districts to establish threat assessment teams. According to the legislation (Senate File 2993/House File 3370), 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,” said Sen. Bigham. “Threat assessment teams are a common sense tool that will improve communication and processes used to keep students safe.”
“We need to allow our districts, schools and teachers every available, sensible tool we can to keep our most precious assets safe, while working to give those in distress the attention they need,” said Rep. Franke. “I believe this is a great step forward in achieving that goal.”
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.
“Behavioral threat assessment is one of the best ways we know to prevent these kinds of acts of violence and has been a recommended best practice by the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Secret Service since 2002,” said Randy J. McAlister, Certified Threat Manager (CTM)™ and Detective Sergeant / Investigations for the City of Cottage Grove. “This important legislation would require Minnesota school districts to implement formal behavioral threat assessment programs.”
According to Senator Bigham’s bipartisan legislation, threat assessment teams 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.