Shortly after the February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and the incident at Great Mills High School in St. Mary’s County, Md., in March 2018, the Maryland General Assembly passed a wide-ranging school safety package that included requiring all public school systems to implement behavioral threat assessment teams. The state’s public schools weren’t left to figure things out on their own, however, as the Maryland School Safety Subcabinet has created a model policy to provide guidance.
“A cross-discipline group of individuals worked together to develop the policy,” says Center Director Kate Hession. “The group pulled information and gathered input from various sources, including the U.S. Secret Service, the Virginia Center for School and Campus Safety, and the FBI. They used existing research and recognized standards of practice regarding threat assessment and management in school and workplace settings.”
With the implementation of the legislation, Maryland joined neighboring Virginia in requiring schools to have a threat assessment policy. (Threat assessment is a prevention-based strategy that, in theory, means serious threats are stopped before they materialize, while less serious ones may lead to a review of a student’s mental health, behavioral or academic well-being.) Virginia’s policy, mandated by that Commonwealth’s legislature in 2008, has been extensively tested and recognized as a best practice, and the new Maryland policy draws on it as a model. The state also used other nationwide policies, procedures and best practices to inform its model policy development, including the Salem-Keizer System and information from the U.S. Secret Service and the FBI. School systems in Florida, Kentucky and Texas also have implemented threat assessment requirements for the 2019-2020 school year, and Washington State will join them in 2020-2021.
“The state level policy outlines the components for the development of a consistent policy at the local school system level,” Hession says. The model policy requirement is one of several mandated by the Maryland Safe to Learn Act of 2018, signed into law by Gov. Larry Hogan in April 2018. The Act requires all public school systems to adopt a local policy consistent with the state policy. Developing the model policy is only half the task; the Center has since added behavioral threat assessment to its training program for school resource officers and has begun providing support related to training and outreach to local school systems.
“We’ve received lots of positive feedback on the model policy itself and on the associated training and support,” Hession says. “We aren’t planning any changes to the policy at the present time, but as we continue to receive new information, lessons learned and research on threat assessments, we may make adjustments.”
You can find the Maryland Model Policy here.
This article is taken from the December 2019 issue of TechBeat, published by the Justice Technology Information Center, formerly a component of the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center System, a program formerly funded by the National Institute of Justice.