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Schools don't have to share students' threat assessments if they switch districts

Schools are more focused than ever on keeping track of students who could be a threat to themselves or others. But how about when troubled students switch schools?

DENVER — Student safety is a topic all schools focus on.

It's a topic all school districts can agree needs attention.

There's one issue related to student safety that not all districts can agree on: student threat assessments.

Districts conduct a threat assessment on students who make a threat or are the subject of concerning behavior. But if that student switches districts, there's no standard for sharing that threat assessment with the new district.

A U.S. Secret Service report recently studied 41 school violence events from 2008-2017 and found 19 of the attackers transferred schools at least once.

In Colorado, during the legislative off-session, an interim school safety committee heard about threat assessments but did not move forward with potential legislation next year that would address a standard for how districts talk with each other.

RELATED: School safety procedures have been the off-session homework assignment for Colorado lawmakers

"Right now, there's no standards for that. So, if a student engages in attack-related behavior at one school, he can transfer to another school district and they will never know," said Jefferson County School District's Executive Director of Security John McDonald. "That's an easy fix for us, so we need to do that."

"Do we need to address this issue of school records following students? Yes. I think it's a very difficult needle to thread,' said Sen. Bob Gardner (R-Colorado Springs). "We're balancing privacy and public safety and that is really hard work."

Gardner sat on the school safety committee, in which he asked McDonald, "What would you have us do?"

He suggested a free option: have districts share threat assessment records when a student transfers.

"You know that there will be parents that rightfully say will say, 'you know, I moved my child because he or she had problems adapting and I didn't want this to follow them,'" said Gardner.

"We know that that is a simple fix and the challenge that we have faced was there has been some concern and miscommunication around FERPA and what we can and cannot share," said Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet (D-Commerce City).

Michaelson Jenet chaired the committee. Her reference to FERPA is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, basically student privacy.

"Morally, ethically, there is nothing preventing them legally. There is nothing preventing them from doing this right now," said Jenet.

Next with Kyle Clark reached out to 18 school districts statewide to see how threat assessments are shared, if at all, when a student transfers to a new district.

NOTIFY NEW DISTRICTS OF STUDENT'S THREAT ASSESSMENT:

  • Adams 12 Five Star Schools
  • Aurora Public Schools
  • Boulder Valley School District
  • Clear Creek School District
  • Douglas County School District
  • Englewood Schools
  • Jefferson County Public Schools
  • Littleton Public Schools

PROVIDE NEW DISTRICTS A THREAT ASSESSMENT "SUMMARY":

  • Cherry Creek School District
  • Westminster Public Schools

DOES NOT SHARE UNLESS NEW DISTRICT REQUESTS:

  • Denver Public Schools
  • Greeley-Evans School District 6

SHARES THREAT ASSESSMENT IF NEW DISTRICT ASKS*

  • Colorado Springs Schools District 11
  • Academy District 20
  • Falcon District 49
  • Ellicott School District 22

DOES NOT SHARE THREAT ASSESSMENT REPORT

  • Mesa County Valley School District 51

NO RESPONSE YET

  • Poudre School District

*We all work so closely down here, that we’ve agreed even though it’s not part of the educational record, we do our best to remember to check and see if there are any threat assessments when kids transfer. However, due to volume and human oversight, sometimes we just simply forget – mostly because it is two different departments," said Allison Cortez, spokeswoman for Academy District 20 in Colorado Springs.

*It has not been a practice to date, but with that said we do not hesitate to share information with a district if there is an issue that we are aware of and if we know where the student is going," said Chris Smith, the superintendent for Ellicott School District 22.

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