RALEIGH – School districts and charter schools across North Carolina would have a new tool to keep their students safer thanks to legislation that passed the General Assembly.
House Bill 605 provides for threat assessment teams at all North Carolina schools beginning in the 2024-25 school year. Those multidisciplinary teams – which include people with expertise in counseling, instruction, administration and law enforcement – conduct threat assessments in a public school unit when threatening behavior has been communicated and when a student is engaged in threatening behavior that warrants further evaluation.
Center for Safer Schools (CFSS) Executive Director Karen W. Fairley said she and State Superintendent Catherine Truitt have advocated for threat assessment legislation since coming into office in 2021.
“It’s not punitive – it allows us to identify children who might be a danger to themselves or others and gives them the assistance and resources that they deserve,” Fairley said.
The CFSS hosts online School Behavioral Threat Assessment and Management Training quarterly in partnership with the BeTA Unit of the State Bureau of Investigation.
Truitt said HB 605 will enhance what the training has provided.
“Nothing is better than having fully-formed threat assessment teams in our schools,” she said. “A fully-functioning threat assessment team is a critical component of keeping schools safer and preventing violence.”
Behavioral threat assessment is a best practice for helping to identify potential threats in K-12 schools and school districts. Behavioral threat assessment and management provides a proactive, evidence-based approach for identifying individuals who might pose a threat to themselves or others and for providing intervention before an incident occurs.
HB 605 mandates that the Center for Safer Schools shall develop guidance for threat assessment teams for public schools. The CFSS shall develop the guidance by collecting information and best practices from schools with existing threat assessment teams and consulting with the Task Force for Safer Schools, Disability Rights North Carolina, North Carolina School Psychology Association, SBI and relevant state government agencies.
HB 605 also will establish peer-to-peer student support programs at all schools with grades 6 and higher. Schools are encouraged to implement peer-to-peer student support programs as appropriate in other grades.
The CFSS will support school counselors in the administration of peer-to-peer programs that address areas such as conflict resolution, general health and wellness, and mentoring.
Fairley said peer-to-peer counseling is critical to keep schools safer.
“Students trust their peers. Other than their parents, no one knows them better,” she said. “It’s crucial to a child’s mental health for them to be able to confide in and receive assistance from someone they can relate to.”
The primary sponsors of HB 605 were Reps. John Torbett, R-Gaston; Hugh Blackwell, R-Burke; and Tricia Cotham, R-Mecklenburg. The legislation received unanimous Senate approval (46-0) on Wednesday, June 21 and passed the House 115-4 on Tuesday, June 27.
House Bill 605 was sent to Gov. Roy Cooper on Wednesday, June 28 for his signature to become law.