On Monday night, members of the St. Charles County Council heard the final recommendations from a task force that focused on how school safety can be improved.
Assembled in the wake of last year’s school shooting in Connecticut, the group included members of law enforcement, school administration and mental health services.
Task force member and County Councilman Terry Hollander said in part the report is meant to be a resource for educators.
“A teacher might say, ‘you know, we’re really concerned about this,’ and say, ‘what more can our school do?’" Hollander said. “Then the principal says, ‘why don’t we get a group of three or four teachers and take a look at this report and see if there’s anything in there we could possibly add to what we’re doing right now.’”
After the task force’s first meeting, the Community and Children’s Resource Board of St. Charles County has come forward to help pay for mental health training for school staff. The St. Charles County Juvenile Justice Center has also pursued opportunities to train Deputy Juvenile Officers in "mental health first aid," according to the report.
Among the best practices listed in the report are to identify a student who may be facing a mental health challenge and get him or her help a soon as possible.
“Once people start shooting there’s not a whole lot you can do,” said County Executive Steve Ehlmann. “But if you can identify people who have problems and are likely to do this, you certainly can take action before it gets to the point they can do such a terrible thing.”
Ehlmann said the topic of gun control was not discussed by the task force.
The 12 recommendations in the report include:
- Exploring opportunities to expand the use of School Resource Officers in high schools and middle schools
- Inviting county contractor Motorola Solutions to present to all schools and law enforcement in the county, technical solutions available for installation in school facilities that would connect into the County’s new emergency radio communications system.
- Law enforcement and schools establish liaisons and ongoing working relationships between one another.
- When education institutions build or renovate school facilities that they be done so with a focus on facility security.
- All schools be made aware of mental and behavioral health resources, including Behavior Health Response’s 24-hour response access line and mental health first-aid training.
- All education institutions implement a mechanism for identifying troubled students similar to Fort Zumwalt School District’s Risk/Threat Assessment worksheet.
- The community focus on increased funding for school based mental health services.
- Information be shared with all schools so that they know to request Crisis Intervention Trained officers when necessary.
- Encourage the state legislature to identify funds to assist police departments in expanding assignment of School Resource Officers.
- Work toward de-stigmatization of mental health issues.
- Reviewing the state of the law regarding video games sales and ratings; and
- School districts in the county should review their policies regarding entrances and exits both during the day and after-hours and take appropriate steps to ensure safety.
Follow Tim Llloyd on Twitter: @TimSLloyd