Children need our support – they shouldn't be treated as potential threats to be monitored and investigated. Yet rather than providing our schools the resources they need to support the mental health, safety, and well-being of all students, the Scott administration wants to require "behavioral threat assessment teams" in all Vermont school districts.
Last week, we joined the Vermont Police Out of Schools Coalition in opposition to this proposal. Find the coalition's statement here.
"Behavioral threat assessment teams" would include law enforcement officials charged with assessing, monitoring, and investigating students of any age for things like "unusual or bizarre communications or behavior" – with no due process or privacy protections or other guidelines in place.
Thankfully, the Senate Education Committee heard our concerns and rejected mandatory threat assessment teams in the proposed legislation. Instead, it supported legislation requiring schools that use threat assessment teams to conduct bias trainings and collect data to help identify discriminatory impacts. This is an improvement on the status quo, and we are grateful to the Senators who supported it.
Threat assessments are especially problematic in light of Vermont's long and well-documented history of disproportionately suspending and disciplining students of color, low-income students, and students with disabilities, as well as widespread bullying and harassment of students from those groups.
"Behavioral threat assessment teams" are a step backward from Vermont's stated commitment to advancing equity and inclusion and combating systemic racism. There are much better ways to create safe, inclusive school environments, and they start with giving teachers and students the resources they need to thrive.
Stay tuned for information on how to support students and advance equity in Vermont schools.