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Bills to address student threats headed to lawmakers

Rep. Jeff Barker, D-Aloha, plans to present a bill in February for a student threat assessment system and tip line.


A state representative on the Oregon Task Force on School Safety says he’ll push for legislation in 2016 to establish a statewide student threat assessment system.

Rep. Jeff Barker, D-Aloha, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, already submitted a bill for February’s short session that would fund a statewide student threat tip line, where anonymous reports could be made.

The threat assessment system and tip line both come from a list of legislative recommendations the task force made in November to help prevent mass killings at schools.

“Without the threat assessment, the tip line system would not be as strong,” said task force member Dave Novotney, superintendent of Willamette Education Service District.

“The way the subcommittee envisioned the tip line and threat assessment system is it works like a hand and glove go together, a system of giving information to school officials early and allowing them to interact in a very effective way and have a multidisciplinary, multiagency response,” Novotney said. “That is the best practice to deal with threats of violence.”

School representatives on the task force said Friday the tip line would spawn an influx of tips to which school staff have no additional capacity or training to respond.

“The data doesn’t speak well that we are handling tips as well as we should. Shootings and suicide are happening at accelerated rate,” Novotney said. “Getting additional tips and handling the exact same way we always have been is probably going to be ineffective.”

“I think we are setting up our schools and districts for failure if we don’t empower them to know about how to assess those tips,” said Susan Graves, safety coordinator for Lincoln County School District. “The consequences can be enormous.”

Barker’s bill asks for about $300,000 per biennium for a tip line, but an exact cost has yet to be determined. Oregon State Police just put out a request for proposals Wednesday for the tip line, said Capt. Tom Worthy.

Initial estimates for the threat assessment system are about $1 million, Novotney said.

Worthy said the actual cost could exceed that amount, depending whether officials decide to use existing record systems at OSP or Oregon Department of Education or buy a new record system.

“A record system will not come cheap,” Worthy said. “That would be a big dollar amount and complicated.”

Barker, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, said he will propose a bill for the threat assessment system in 2016 and if unsuccessful, will pursue similar legislation in 2017. He missed the deadline to submit committee bills for the threat assessment measure but plans to speak with House Speaker Tina Kotek about getting it on the agenda.

The tip line would have voice, text and mobile application capabilities and might be modeled after a system used in Colorado.

Colorado’s SAFE2TELL system has received 13,100 tips since 2004. The majority of those were reports of bulling and suicidal behavior. But the system also took in 973 reports of threats of violence and 381 reports of planned attacks on schools, according to a task force report.

The threat assessment system involves first tier school-based teams to respond to initial threats and second tier community-based threat assessment teams to respond more serious threats.

The regional teams would provide interventions to students at risk of committing violence against others or themselves. Interventions could include mental health counseling, mentors and additional supervision, among other measures.

The Salem-Keizer School District has had a threat assessment team in place for several years. Statistics on outcomes from that Salem-Keizer system were not immediately available Friday.

The task force is set to sunset in 2017. Members on Friday agreed to ask lawmakers to extend the group’s expiration until 2019. Task force members said they would like to continue their work with a focus on prevention. They’re also seeking additional task force members to represent the Oregon Department of Education and community health.ker said he will propose a bill for the threat assessment system in 2016 and if unsuccessful, will pursue similar legislation in 2017.

The tip line would have voice, text and mobile application capabilities and might be modeled after a system used in Colorado.

Colorado’s SAFE2TELL system has received 13,100 tips since 2004. The majority of those were reports of bulling and suicidal behavior. But the system also took in 973 reports of threats of violence and 381 reports of planned attacks on schools, according to a task force report.

The threat assessment system involves first tier school-based teams to respond to initial threats and second tier community-based threat assessment teams to respond more serious threats.

The teams would provide interventions to students at risk of committing violence against others or themselves. Interventions could include mental health counseling, mentors and additional supervision, among other measures.

The Salem-Keizer School District has had a threat assessment team in place for several years. Statistics on outcomes from that Salem-Keizer system were not immediately available Friday.

The task force is set to sunset in 2017. Members on Friday agreed to ask lawmakers to extend the group’s expiration until 2019. Task force members said they would like to continue their work with a focus on prevention. They’re also seeking additional task force members to represent the Oregon Department of Education and community health.


By Paris Achen
Portland Tribune Capital Bureau Reporter
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