Concerned Citizens question School Board

At March’s Moore County School Board meeting, retired teacher and grandparent Karen Fletcher spoke on behalf Concerned Citizens for Safer Schools which was formed in response to a situation in January involving student safety and security.  Mrs. Fletcher posed the following questions to the board and their responses were presented at the April meeting by Moore County Director of Schools, Chad Moorehead.  Some responses involving quoted policy and procedure statutes and recommended plans of action from federal agencies have been edited for length.

  • Will the school administration be willing to include the State Homeland Security Agent, Charles Crumrine on our school's Threat Assessment Team?

Mr. Crumrine will be a welcomed resource for our school district. We will use his expertise as needed. We have met with him since the March school board meeting. He reviewed the January 3rd situation and confirmed that the school acted appropriately for all parties involved. Mr. Crumrine specifically stated that the measures enacted to ensure the safety of our students without excluding anyone from school was the exact response that he would have advised.

  • Will our SRO's call the department of TN Homeland Security on a case by case basis when serious threats are made in our schools?

This question should be referred to the Moore County Sheriff’s office. The direct supervisor of the school SRO is the sheriff/designee. The SRO presence on campus is regulated by a Memorandum of Understanding between the school system and Sheriff’s office.

  • Will the parents of a student who has received a death threat be included 'In person' during the initial investigation of the threat?

This would be a violation of the Federal Educational Records Privacy Act.

  • Will the parents of all victims of a death threat be notified immediately even if their child did not hear the direct threat?


  • Can you as leaders of our schools assure parents that a school counselor will be present during the questioning of a student who has been given a death threat?

School Counselors will be used when appropriate throughout the school day and in special circumstances. The counselor will be available to all of our students as needed, but may not be included when school administrators are attempting to determine cause and effect of issues that have occurred at school.

  • Does the school administration believe that all parents of students who have received a death threat are entitled to know the full extent and circumstances surrounding the threat?

As allowed by state and federal laws.

  • What is the administration's definition of a death threat?

A threat to kill someone.

  • Would the school board members review the student handbook and relay to parents the protocol for dealing with a death threat?

The code of conduct contained in the student handbook is directly from the related school board policy. It should be noted that the code of conduct provides possible consequences for inappropriate behavior and is not prescriptive.

  • As rehabilitation of a child is the ultimate goal, what can the school administration guarantee will be done as preventative measures to ensure the safety of all students? If you cannot expel a student who makes a death threat, how can you prevent the student from doing harm if the threats are substantiated?

Here are excerpts from guidance provided by Federal Agencies:

U.S. Department of Education-“Schools should attempt interventions prior to the disciplinary process but create a continuum of developmentally appropriate and proportional consequences for addressing ongoing and escalating student misbehavior after all appropriate interventions have been attempted. Zero-tolerance discipline policies, which generally require a specific consequence for specific action regardless of circumstance, may prevent the flexibility necessary to choose appropriate and proportional consequences… Developmentally appropriate and proportional consequences generally should not include the use of law enforcement approaches, such as arrest, citations, ticketing, or court referrals… restraint and seclusion should never be used for punishment or discipline.

In developing and implementing school discipline policies, schools also must comply with the federal and state laws that provide special requirements for the discipline of students with disabilities… For example, federal provisions… address the procedures that must be followed when schools take any disciplinary actions involving students with disabilities or make decisions about whether or not to remove a child with a disability from his or her current school placement and what continuing education services must be provided to the student and where such services will be provided… School discipline policies should provide strong due process protections to all students before imposing serious disciplinary consequences. Due process protections generally include notification requirements, the right to fair disciplinary hearings prior to suspensions and expulsions, appeal processes, and other safeguards prior to the application of disciplinary sanctions. By providing strong due process protections, schools can help to imbue the disciplinary process with a sense of fairness and legitimacy.

Research suggests that time spent in rigorous and relevant instruction can impact student achievement. Not surprisingly, then, individual students who are suspended and removed from class are less likely to graduate on time and more likely to repeat a grade, drop out, or become involved in the juvenile justice system. The negative consequences are not felt just at the individual level. High rates of suspensions in schools have been related to lower school-wide academic achievement and standardized test scores. In addition, schools and communities bear the increased direct and indirect costs associated with grade retention and dropouts.”

U.S. Department of Homeland Security National Threat Assesment Center- “Once the (Threat Assessment) Team has completed a thorough assessment of the student, it can evaluate whether the student is at risk for self-harm or harming someone elseat school. Concern may be heightened if the student is struggling emotionally, having trouble overcoming setbacks or losses, feeling hopeless, preoccupied with others who engaged in violence to solve problems, or has access to weapons… the Team is not attempting to predict with certainty if violence will happen. Instead, evaluate the presence of factors that indicate violence might be a possibility. Teams can then develop risk management strategies that reduce the student's risk for engaging in violenceand make positive outcomes for the student more likely.

● Each student who comes to the Team's attention will require an individualized management plan. The resources and supports the student needs will differ depending on the information gathered during the assessment.

● Sometimes management involves suspension or expulsion from school. When this is necessary, Teams and school administrators should consider how it might affect their ability to monitor the student. Removing a student from school does not eliminate the risk to the school community… A suspended or expelled student might become isolated from positive peer interactions or supportive adult relationships at school. Teams should develop strategies to stay connected to the suspended or expelled student to determine whether the student's situation is deteriorating or the behaviors of concern are escalating so that they can respond appropriately.

● Notify law enforcement immediately if a student is thinking about or planning to engage in violence, so that they may assist in managing the situation.

● Make efforts to address the safety of any potential targets by altering or improving security procedures for schools or individuals and providing guidance on how to avoid the student of concern.

● Create a situation that is less prone to violence by asking the family or law enforcement to block the student's access to weapons, while also connecting the student to positive, prosocial models of behavior. Another option may involve removing the student from campus for a period of time, while maintaining a relationship with the student and the student's family.

● Remove or redirect the student's motive. Every student's motive will be different, and motives can be redirected in a variety of ways. These strategies may include bullying prevention efforts or offering counseling for a student experiencing a personal setback.

● Reduce the effect of stressors by providing resources and supports that help the student manage and overcome negative events, setbacks, and challenges. A crucial component of preventing targeted violence at schools relies on developing positive school climates built on a culture of safety, respect, trust, and social and emotional support. Teachers and staff in safe school environments support diversity, encourage communication between faculty and students, intervene in conflicts, and work to prevent teasing and bullying. Students in safe school climates feel empowered to share concerns with adults, without feeling ashamed or facing the stigma of being labeled a "snitch." Administrators can take action to develop and sustain safe school climates.

● Help students feel connected to the school, their classmates, and teachers. This is an important first step to creating school climates that are supportive, respectful, and safe.

● Encourage teachers and staff to build positive, trusting relationships with students by actively listening to students and taking an interest in what they say.

● Break down "codes of silence" and help students feel empowered to come forward and share concerns and problems with a trusted adult. At one school, administrators used a faculty meeting to identify students who lacked a solid connection with an adult at school. They provided faculty with a roster of enrolled students and asked them to place a mark next to students with whom they had a warm relationship. For students without a mark next to their name, popular, well-liked teachers and staff were asked to reach out and develop positive connections with them.

● Help students feel more connected to their classmates and the school… Adults can also help students identify clubs or teams at school they can join or encourage them to start their own special interest group.  While teachers and staff can foster relationships and connectedness among the student body, students themselves have a role to play in sustaining safe school climates. They should be actively engaged in their schools, encouraged to reach out to classmates who might be lonely or isolated, and empowered to intervene safely when they witness gossiping, teasing, and bullying.”

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