The Oregon Task Force on School Safety agreed Thursday to recommend development of a statewide student threat assessment system aimed at preventing shootings and other violence at public schools.
The project would be modeled after a student threat assessment system in Marion, Polk and Yamhill counties, said task force member Dave Novotney, superintendent of Willamette Education Service District. In that system, when schools receive an indication of threatening or destructive behavior, the system deploys a team of law enforcement, educators and counselors to respond. The team may help connect the student with resources such as mental health counseling or provide the student with more supervision.
“The idea is to intervene with hope we can nudge them off their trajectory and help them make decisions that are positive,” said John Van Dreal, director of school and risk management services at Salem-Keizer School District.
The system started taking shape in 1999 in Salem-Keizer schools and later expanded to all of the schools in the Willamette ESD.
Measuring the effectiveness of the system has been challenging. “You can’t measure events that don’t happen,” Van Dreal said.
Surveys of school administrators and counselors indicate the system has helped to enhance a sense of safety on campuses, Van Dreal said. Schools in several other states, including California and Idaho, have adopted the protocols, he said.
Recommendation by the state task force calls for establishing response teams in eight regions in the state and providing training to employees.
Threat assessment capabilities across the state are spotty, said Novotney, who also is a task force member. Threat assessment protocols in some school districts are refined while in other places, the plans are nonexistent, he said. Expanding the system statewide would cost about $1.1 million, Novotney said.
The task force voted unanimously Oct. 29 to recommend the plan to the Legislature in February and named it as one of its top priorities for the legislative session. “It is much better to prevent these things than to respond to them,” said Beaverton police Chief Geoff Spalding, a task force member.
The task force also continues to pursue plans to resurrect a tip line for information on threats to educational institutions and start a statewide database of school floor plans and safety protocols.