This Is Not a Drill: School Districts Now Required to Create Threat Assessment Teams and Implement Threat Assessment Procedures
Governor Pritzker recently signed into law Public Act 101-0455 amending the School Safety Drill Act (105 ILCS 128/1) to require threat assessment procedures and the creation of threat assessment teams in school districts across Illinois. The required threat assessment procedures may be part of a school board policy on targeted school violence prevention and must include the creation of a threat assessment team, but the law does not otherwise specify what must be included in the procedure.
The threat assessment team must include the following members, each of whom must be employed by the school district or special education cooperative that serves the school district and be available to serve on the team: an administrator, a teacher, a school counselor, a school psychologist, and a school social worker. In addition to the team members above, at least one law enforcement official must also be included on the team.
If a school district is unable to establish a threat assessment team with school district staff and resources, the Act permits a district to utilize a regional behavioral threat assessment and intervention team that includes mental health professionals and representatives from the State, county, and local law enforcement. The Act states that any sharing of student information by the threat assessment team must comply with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Illinois School Student Records Act (ISSRA). The law also includes an exemption under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for any records concerning the work of the threat assessment team.
School districts must implement an initial threat assessment procedure by December 24, 2019, and must establish the required threat assessment team no later than February 22, 2020.
The School Safety Drill Act already required districts – through the board or the board’s designee – to conduct a minimum of one annual meeting to review each school building’s emergency and crisis response plans, protocols, and procedures, as well as each building’s compliance with the school safety drill programs. Under the new law, the Act requires districts to include as part of that annual meeting a review of its procedures regarding the school district’s threat assessment team.
In addition to the requirements above, PA 101-455 also includes certain tax and funding provisions related to the employment of school resource officers and mental health professionals. The School Facility and Resources Occupation Tax was created in 2007 to allow any county to impose a sales tax for school facility purposes. To impose such a tax, the voters must first approve a referendum. The taxes collected are then dispersed to the regional superintendent of schools, who distributes them to school districts based on student enrollment. PA 101-455 amends that provision of the Counties Code to allow money raised by such a tax to be spent on school resource officers and mental health professionals as well as school facilities. Because a referendum is required to impose such a tax, a new referendum is required to expand the use of the tax proceeds or to increase the tax rate to include school resource officers and mental health professionals. PA 101-455 also adds a provision allowing the voters of a county to adopt a referendum eliminating the School Facilities and Resources Occupation Tax.
School districts should begin reviewing with legal counsel any current policies, protocols, and procedures in place addressing threat assessments, crisis response and intervention, and targeted school violence prevention to determine how best to structure and establish the threat assessment procedures and team required under the new Act. For questions about the new law and best practices for implementation, contact Dana Fattore Crumley, Amy Dickerson, Scott Metcalf, Caroline Kane, or another Franczek attorney.