September 27, 2021

OSD 308 updating threat assessment process to comply with new state law

Oswego School District 308 administrators are updating their strategies for assessing threats at the district's 22 schools to comply with a new state law.

Executive Director of District Student Services Valerie Patterson led a presentation before the Board of Education during its Jan. 13 meeting.

The changes to procedure were prompted by Gov. J.B. Pritzker's signing of House Bill 1561 last August. The law amends the School Safety Drill Act and requires all school boards to develop threat assessment protocols and create threat assessment teams, including specified personnel and other members.

Calling the act "very important," Patterson explained that appraising certain behaviors can help school officials to identify "potentially dangerous or violent individuals" and assess or manage them.

"That's the definition of threat assessment," she said.

Patterson told the board that the law features several components with different effective dates.

One of the provisions, which has already been implemented in the district, requires school districts to hold at least one armed intruder drill involving students and law enforcement within the first 90 days of the school year. The district complied with that change in the first semester of the year.

The district's annual school safety meeting must now feature a review of school emergency operations and crisis response plan, a threat assessment team procedure review and must document compliance with school safety drill requirements.

"They want to be sure that schools are able to adequately address a threat assessesment procedure for any situations that arise in their building," Patterson said.

The district's threat assessment procedures, she explained, are adapted from the Policy Reference Education Subscription Service (PRESS) offered by the Illinois Association of School Boards. The two required components cover targeted school violence prevention programs and the threat assessment teams.

A threat assessment team for a school consists of a school administrator, teacher, school counselor, social worker, or psychologist, and a law enforcement official if needed. At the district level, a threat assessment team includes administrators from the district, school buildings, and the special education department as well as: a teacher, school counselor, social worker or psychologist, law enforcement, EMTs or other agencies, as well as students or parent stakeholders.

The school violence prevention program has already gone into effect, and the threat assessement teams must go into effect by February. Patterson confirmed that team members have been identified, and preliminary training has already begun.

The final matter, Patterson said, is information sharing. Any and all sharing of student data must be in compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and Illinois School Student Records Act (ISSRA). A new exemption has also been granted under the Freedom of Information Act for any records concerning the work of a district's threat assessment teams.

Status reports on the district's compliance will be presented to the Board of Education during their meetings.