Minnesota lawmaker proposes bill to identify students in crisis

February 03, 2019 10:40 PM

It’s been nearly a year since a former student killed 17 people at a Parkland, Florida high school. Minnesota lawmakers are again pushing for early intervention to prevent another tragedy.

“Students deserve a safe place to go to school,” said Sen. Karla Bigham.


She's introduced a bill to require every district in the state to create school safety assessment teams for the elementary, middle and high school levels.

A similar proposal made it into the omnibus bill last year, which was vetoed.

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“The goal is to be proactive in identifying the threatening behavior,” she said. “A lot of times those behaviors are evident before a tragedy occurs.”

According to Bigham, the team would be made up of school administrators, mental health experts and police.

“Is there something else going on? How do we get the student help and services to resolve [that] kind of the behavior,” said Bigham.

She’s proposed $300,000 for training the teams. Some districts already have similar programs in place but Bigham said this will establish a state-wide system of best practices.

Cottage Grove Police Captain Randy McAllister has collaborated on the proposed legislation. We asked him how these teams identify threats.

“We look at things like do [students] articulate some sort of grievance with the school or somebody at the school? Do they have ideation, are they thinking about violence? Are they sort of worshipping at the shrine of previous school shooters?” said McAllister.

The bill states if a student poses a threat, the team must report it to the superintendent, who then reports it to the student’s parents.

“Intervention runs the gamut,” said McAllister. “Law enforcement is an intervention but it's not the intervention typically used in these cases. There's a lot of things you can do to get somebody help way before you get to the point where you have to make an arrest.”

He said that could include connecting students to mental health help or counseling, resolving financial issues or identifying a social services need.

“What kind of things in this kid's life would tend to bring them back from violence, things like family relationships, religious views,” said McAllister.

The bill, as introduced, also calls for the team to identify students at-risk for self-harm and suicide. Bigham told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, after speaking with mental health advocates, she plans to remove that section.

A house version has also been introduced. Bigham hopes hearings will begin soon on both.

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Callan Gray

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