Letters to the Community

Lava Ridge Classroom signs

A Call to Action: Acting Together

Bend-La Pine Schools Superintendent Shay Mikalson sent the following communication and call to action to local elected officials in February 2018.

Letters to:

Elected Official Letter

February 26, 2018

I write today to urge your support of school and community safety efforts that must be moved to law during the current short session. You will immediately help to improve school and community safety throughout Oregon by: writing a new crime in Oregon of terroristic threat at a felony level; providing funding for threat assessment teams to provide threat assessments to youth in crisis; and extending maximum detention from 36 hours to 10 days for misdemeanor charges filed against youth with weapons offenses.

As superintendent of Oregon’s fifth largest school district, I have seen firsthand how our legislators can move mountains in short order when lives are at risk. I plead for you to do this now.

Just days ago, I learned of an alleged attack on one of our schools by a student. This was a credible threat, according to law enforcement. Though this youth remains in custody, much thanks to our District Attorney and his team, the suspect could have been released hours after his arrest and back into our community before proper safety plans could be set into motion, due to the lack of charges appropriate to his behavior.

You have an opportunity, during this short session, to prioritize funding to make the following school and community safety needs a reality.

Enact a new statute for terroristic threats to commit crimes of violence or threats to cause bodily injury to another person and terrorization as the result of a threat or plan. Make this a felony level crime for anyone who threatens attacks in our communities, schools and places of work. This ask has been reviewed by and is supported by Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel and Bend Police Chief Jim Porter.

Additionally, add language that anyone charged with making a terrorist threat forgoes their non-consent to ROI to law enforcement, public schools and county mental health that could protect public safety (this could include, but is not limited to: Youth Villages, student discipline records, mental health provider interviews, jail/juvenile department risk screens) and help create appropriate safety plans for school, communities and families.

Finally, release these records to local Student Threat Assessment Teams and Adult Threat Assessment Teams so that they can better develop appropriate safety plans and help to identify potential wrap around services for the person accused of making the threat.

Threat assessment continues to be one of the most effective ways school districts, law enforcement and mental health professionals can reduce the likelihood of an active shooter situation in a school environment.

Establish and fund a statewide threat assessment system to identify, evaluate and support students who present a potential threat to themselves or others as a priority by your legislative mandated School Safety Task Force on School Safety (established as a result of HB 4087 in 2014) in September 2015. A statewide student threat assessment system would assist with the early identification, assessment, early intervention and support for students at risk of engaging in suicidal behavior as well as those charged with crimes.

I implore you to fund a minimum of 14 (FTE) Regional Threat Assessment Specialists across the state and one Program Administrator position (1.0 FTE), as your own task force recommended in 2015. Fund ongoing training and membership to the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals. Task the Oregon Department of Education with providing oversight of the system.

Finally, extend maximum detention from 36 hours to 10 days for misdemeanor charges filed against youth with weapons offenses or those who make threats to others to allow for proper record sharing and safety plan development before release.

As your short session is nearing its end, I ask that you work swiftly to make these asks a reality and continue your commitment to improve school and community safety for all Oregonians.

I look forward to working with you in the days to come and thank you on behalf of our more than 18,300 student and Oregon’s 570,000 students across the state.

Sincerely,

Shay Mikalson, Superintendent
Bend-La Pine Schools