McDaniel Joins National Taskforce to Examine Legal & Policy Barriers to Ensuring School Safety

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May 16, 2007

ATTORNEY GENERAL DUSTIN MCDANIEL JOINS NATIONAL TASK FORCE TO EXAMINE LEGAL AND POLICY BARRIERS TO ENSURING SCHOOL SAFETY

LITTLE ROCK--Attorney General Dustin McDaniel announced plans today to join a coalition of the nation's state Attorneys General in a coordinated effort to examine legal issues related to school violence and safety.

In light of recent outbreaks of violence on college campuses and schools, Attorney General McDaniel, under the auspices of the National Association of Attorneys General ---- the professional membership association of the nation's 56 elected and appointed state Attorneys General --- will work with his colleagues on the Task Force on School Safety to identify legal and policy barriers to ensuring students safe learning environments.

"Here in Arkansas, we know all too well the devastating effect that school violence can have on a community," McDaniel said. "After the Westside School shootings in Jonesboro, I saw firsthand the aftermath of school violence. Now as Attorney General, I want to begin the process of implementing steps to ensure that all places of learning are safe, secure and free of violence."

The Task Force, chaired by Colorado Attorney General John Suthers and Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch, will work to identify innovative programs, policies, and legislative initiatives that may serve to fill in the gaps in existing school safety protocols. Task Force members also will examine key relationships that Attorneys General must build to effectively address school violence and safety issues, including those with educators, law enforcement, and public and private educational advocacy groups.

On May 3, several former Attorneys General now serving in the United States Senate wrote to Attorneys General asking them to assess the state of campus security around the country and make recommendations for improvements. U.S. Senators Joe Lieberman (CT), Mark Pryor (AR), Ken Salazar (CO), and Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) asked Attorneys General to respond to questions surrounding contingency trainings, safety practices, and emergency notification procedures, as well as actions the federal government can take to facilitate emergency planning and law enforcement response on college campuses.

Recent statistics indicate that the rate of serious violent crime has fallen and that college campuses are relatively safe places on which students can live and learn. Since the early 1990s, there have been on average 20 murders on campuses each year, out of some 16 million students who attend annually, according to a recent report in U.S. News and World Report.

However, the recent tragedy at Virginia Tech underscores the need for continued work by Attorneys General, law enforcement, school officials, mental health experts, and other groups to ensure a learning environment that is free from violence.


"There is clearly a need to examine how mental health and privacy issues are being dealt with in regards to school safety, as well as how to properly address students' behavioral and mental health problems," McDaniel said. "I look forward to working with Senator Pryor and my fellow Attorneys General to develop a set of best practices and limit these senseless acts of violence as much as possible."

Experts in school security, behavioral specialists, educators, students, and other advocates will be invited to meet with Attorneys General in order to develop a comprehensive report with recommendations to the states in September.


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