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May-17-2007 16:17printcomments

Oregon Attorney Joins Task Force to Examine Barriers in Ensuring School Safety

“As Oregon’s Attorney General, I have a responsibility in dealing with the aftermath of violence in our schools,”- Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers

Virginia Tech students after the tragedy
Virginia Tech students after the tragedy
Photo courtesy: Christian Science Monitor

(SALEM, Ore.) - Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers today announced plans to join a coalition of the nation’s state Attorneys General in a coordinated effort to examine legal issues related to school violence and safety.

In light of recent outbreaks of violence on college campuses and schools, Attorney General Myers, under the auspices of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), will work with colleagues on the Task Force on School Safety to identify legal and policy barriers to ensuring students safe learning environments.

“As Oregon’s Attorney General, I have a responsibility in dealing with the aftermath of violence in our schools,” Myers said. “My unique role as the state’s chief legal officer includes implementing steps to ensure that all places of learning are safe, secure and free from the disruptive influences of fear and violence.”

The AGs’ Task Force will work to identify innovative programs, policies, and legislative initiatives that may serve to fill in the gaps in existing school safety protocols. Task Force members also will examine key relationships that Attorneys General must build to effectively address school violence and safety issues, including those with educators, law enforcement, and public and private educational advocacy groups.

Earlier this month, several former Attorneys General now serving in the United States Senate wrote to the Attorneys General asking them to assess the state of campus security around the country and make recommendations for improvements. U.S. Senators Joe Lieberman (CT), Mark Pryor (AK), Ken Salazar (CO), and Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) asked Attorneys General to respond to questions surrounding contingency trainings, safety practices, and emergency notification procedures, as well as actions the federal government can take to facilitate emergency planning and law enforcement response on college campuses.

In 1999, the Attorneys General issued a national report on youth violence and school safety following a spate of fatal school shootings in Colorado and Mississippi. Now, AGs are planning to revisit those recommendations and identify better measures states can adopt to create safer environments for our children.

“There is clearly a need for an urgent re-examination of a number of issues surrounding school safety, including reviewing current legal issues related to mental health and privacy and the impact on school safety, as well as devising adequate plans to address behavioral or mental health problems exhibited by students who may pose a danger to themselves or others,” Myers explained. “We need to develop best practices and solutions to put a stop to student victimization by these senseless acts of violence.”

In the next few months, experts in school security, behavioral specialists, educators, students, and other advocates will be invited to meet with AG Myers and other Attorneys General in order to develop a comprehensive report with recommendations to all the states in September. Recent statistics indicate that the rate of serious violent crime has fallen and that college campuses are relatively safe places on which students can live and learn. Since the early 1990s, there have been on average 20 murders on campuses each year, out of some 16 million students who attend annually, according to a recent report in U.S. News and World Report.

However, the recent tragedy at Virginia Tech underscores the need for continued work by Attorneys General, law enforcement, school officials, mental health experts, and other groups to ensure a learning environment that is free from violence

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