August 2, 2022
On August 1, 2022, Governor Murphy signed legislation (A4075/3229) requiring NJ Public Schools, including Charter Schools and Renaissance Schools, to develop and adopt policies for the establishment of threat assessment teams in their schools.
According to the new law “the purpose of a threat assessment team shall be to provide school teachers, administrators, and other staff with assistance in identifying students of concern, assessing those students’ risk for engaging in violence or other harmful activities, and delivering intervention strategies to manage the risk of harm for students who pose a potential safety risk, to prevent targeted violence in the school, and ensure a safe and secure school environment that enhances the learning experience for all members of the school community.”
Threat Assessment Teams shall be multidisciplinary in membership and include a school psychologist, school counselor, school social worker, or other school employee with expertise in student counseling; a teaching staff member; a school principal or other senior school administrator; a safe schools resource officer or school employee who serves as a school liaison to law enforcement; and the designated school safety specialist. Additional school employees may serve as members of the team or may be consulted during the threat assessment process. Schools are not prohibited from involving outside consultants or experts in their training or the functional operations of this team.
Policies should be consistent with guidance to be developed by the Department of Education in consultation with State law enforcement agencies and the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.
The new law also requires “[w]hen assessing a student whose behavior may pose a threat to the safety of the school community, in the case of a student with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 plan, the threat assessment team shall consult with the IEP team or 504 team to determine whether the aberrant behavior is a threat to school safety and is being properly addressed in a manner that is required by N.J.A.C.6A:14 and all federal and State special education laws.”
The law requires that teams participate in training to ensure that the threat assessment team is able to assess student behavior accurately and to ensure that threat assessment teams do not have a disparate impact on students based on their race, ethnicity, homelessness status, religious belief, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status. The training shall, at a minimum, include training on adverse childhood experiences, childhood trauma, cultural competency, and implicit bias.
While school districts typically wait to receive draft policies from either Strauss Esmay or New Jersey School Boards Association, they should take steps to consider the necessary training and who will serve on this important new team. The Porzio Education Team is available to assist with the implementation of this new requirement which takes effect in the 2022-23 school year, including policy development, team selection, coordination, training, and guidance during the threat assessment process.
In addition to our extensive experience in Education Law, the Porzio Education team includes a former NJ Police Chief, certified as a School Resource Officer, NJDOE School Safety Specialist, and certified Behavioral Threat Assessment and Management Instructor available to assist our clients in navigating this new requirement and provide guidance during the threat assessment process to support this effort to prevent school violence.