In the last few years, police officers have heard terrible threats from students in Bend schools, which, if carried out, would cause the devastating havoc seen around the nation in mass shooting incidents.
One child hearing voices telling him to steal an officer’s gun then shoot children. Another teenager saying he is the next Sandy Hook killer, but will do far more damage.
This is the kind of information that teachers need to know about to keep schools safe, but because of laws protecting the privacy of school and medical records, (like the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA) police are not allowed to tell teachers about possible danger, said several police representatives at the Bend City Council meeting Wednesday.
In an extremely sobering moment, Bend Police Chief Jeff Sale told the council that these threats cannot be ignored and that Bend is at an elevated risk level for a mass shooting.
“We kind of meet that national profile of a place where this could happen,” Sale told the council Wednesday night.
The council was rapt as Sale described two mass shootings he had personally responded to during his career.
He said the Bend Police Department has plans in place to deal with similar incidents.
“Where we fall down…is we don’t do a real good job of preventing these from happening in the first place,” said Sale.
A big part of that prevention is finding a legal way for teachers, police and mental health officials to share information about young people showing signs that they might seriously attempt a mass shooting.
The chief’s answer to this problem is a bold one.
He is proposing that the city launch a pilot program that could be a model for the nation.
Sale said he hopes to get the Oregon Attorney General and other legal minds together to break down the barriers posed by FERPA and HIPAA so that critical information about youth with mental health issues can be shared in time to prevent an attack.
After that, he hopes to create a system for the sharing of information about these youth in the hopes that social service officials may be able to intervene and prevent a shooting event.
In future weeks, Sale will attempt to collect more funding for the project. Already rotary clubs in Bend have pledged several thousand dollars, he said.
Council members praised the plan, including Doug Knight who told Sale the plan was far better than arming teachers.