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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: May 31, 2019 02:49 PM
From: Senator Jay Costa and Sen. Vincent J. Hughes
To: All Senate members
Subject: Public School Threat Assessment Teams
In the near future we will introduce companion legislation to House Bill 1423, sponsored by Representative Ortitay, to require all public schools to create at least one threat assessment team.

For decades, the US Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center has conducted research on acts of targeted violence, including those that have tragically impacted our schools and communities. In recent years, the Secret Service, in partnership with the US Department of Education has redoubled its efforts to provide research and guidance on threat assessment and violence prevention.

Threat assessment is a critical component of school safety. The goal of threat assessment is to identify individuals in distress before their behavior escalates to a level that raises concerns about safety. A threat assessment is conducted when a person threatens to commit a violent act or engages in behavior that appears to threaten targeted violence. The process involves evaluating the threat, and the circumstances surrounding the threat, to uncover any facts that indicate the threat is likely to be carried out. Each day, our schools are faced with a multitude of concerning student behaviors, the vast majority of which will be non-threatening and non-violent, but still require intervention.

Our legislation will also build on the success of the Safe2Say Something program by providing a connection between these programs to ensure that public school entities have multidisciplinary teams and processes in place to respond address the unmet needs of our students in a more holistic manner. In fact, one of the recommendations made by the School Safety Task Force convened by the Governor and Auditor General in 2018 was the creation of multidisciplinary threat assessment/prevention teams which can, as part of a comprehensive school safety plan, reduce the likelihood of violence and help create a climate where students feel safe.

The bill additionally requires the School Safety and Security Committee in PCCD to create a threat assessment task force to support the development and ongoing work of threat assessment teams with a duty to develop best practices for public school entities to use in assessing and responding to threats, develop and offer training programs and informational materials, and create model procedures and guidelines for threat assessment teams.

We hope that you will join me and co-sponsor this important legislation.

Introduced as SB729