With state statutes now requiring that school districts establish threat-assessment teams, Orange County school board members have just approved their policy in accordance with the mandate.
Referred to as “Board Policy JICK: Threats,” the policy’s adoption is a formality for Orange County Public Schools. Superintendent Dr. Barbara Jenkins told board members at the Aug. 20 school board meeting that OCPS has had such teams in the past.
“This formalizes (it), and the board is required to adopt a policy, but we’ve had teams meeting at schools around troubled children in the past anyway — teachers, counselors, administrators — if a child is struggling, if there is a concern, it is not unheard of,” Jenkins said.
OCPS officials stated that the school board “finds it essential that all schools be safe and orderly to provide environments that foster learning.”
According to OCPS, all statements — written or non-written — as well as actions or gestures that threaten the safety of any person, OCPS school or facility will be taken seriously regardless of intent.
“All threats of harm to oneself or others shall be immediately reported to school administration and/or law enforcement, if applicable,” the policy states.
And in accordance with Florida Statutes Section 1006.07, every school needs to establish a threat-assessment team.
OCPS documents states that each team will include people with expertise in counseling, instruction, school administration, law enforcement and any other OCPS employee deemed necessary who can provide valuable input. This could be the dean, mental health designee or a staffing specialist.
Each team will follow procedures and guidelines set by the district in accordance with state statutes. Teams will meet monthly or as often as necessary to ensure that students are appropriately assessed.
Other responsibilities of he threat-assessment teams include the following: identifying members of the school community to whom threatening behavior should be reported; consulting with law enforcement when a student exhibits patterns of behavior that could pose a threat to school safety; and reporting to the superintendent any student who poses a threat of violence or physical harm to his or herself or others.
During the meeting, Wendy Doromal, president of the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association, expressed objection on behalf of the CTA to adopting the policy due to the fact that this mandate is unfunded.
“School safety is paramount, and any teacher assigned to a school safety committee deserves additional compensation for their crucial work keeping Orange County students safe,” Doromal said.
Jenkins acknowledged Doromal’s statement, adding that while additional state funding is not being provided, it is still important to ensure safety of all students, staff and faculty.
“I would agree that the state has not provided funding around the additional time it might take for threat assessment, but I want to be careful of where we think we might make a stand regarding the state’s requirements because this policy is in response to the slaying that took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas,” Jenkins said. “They want school systems and schools to be on top of children who may be troubled, who may have issues going on in their lives ,and somebody is collectively coming together to try to support and come to some judgments around that.
“We have this kind of process that has been going on in the past anyway,” Jenkins said. “I don’t want it to seem as if we’re not concerned. The tragedy was severe — the response is to make sure professionals in the school setting are coming together to talk about troubled children and those kinds of discipline issues.”