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INFORMATIONAL  LETTER NO.  3

 

POLICY CODE:  EBCC

 

 

 

TO:                 Superintendents of Schools, Principals, Headmasters, and School Board Chairs

 

FROM:            J. Duke Albanese, Commissioner

 

SUBJECT:     Public Law 2001, Chapter 67 (20-A  M.R.S.A. § 263) Response to School Bomb Threats

 

DATE:            July 3, 2002

 

 

In accordance with 20-A MRSA § 263, the Commissioner of Education has conferred with representatives of the U.S. Department of Education, reviewed web-based materials from selected state education agencies, and convened representatives of school administrative units, parents, and law enforcement, fire, rescue and emergency preparedness officials to develop guidance for school administrative units to present to their communities on the prevention and response to school bomb threats. It is the Department’s intent that this information assist school administrative units with their work in developing local policies that concern prevention of, and response to, school bomb threats within their communities. 

 

Many of the entities consulted, recognizing that individual school administrative units have unique needs and resources, strongly recommended that guidance from the Department should be non-specific, thereby enabling local schools and non-school officials to establish policies and procedures best suited to the individual needs of their communities.  They also recommended that all school boards prepare for the possibility of bomb threats, as all property (e.g., building, buses) are potential targets at any time.

 

With respect to local policy establishment, the Department provides the following:

 

  1. Consistent with 20-A MRSA § 263(2), all public and private schools enrolling more than 60% of their students at public expense must report each bomb threat incident to the Department of Education.  The initial report must be made to the Office of the Superintendent within the school administrative unit or to the Headmaster of the private school.  The recipient of such a report must then transmit that threat to the Commissioner of Education within two (2) business days of the occurrence of the bomb threat.  The protocol for reporting includes the following: 

 

    1. school name;

 

    1. date and time of threat;

 

    1. medium used to communicate the threat; and,

 

    1. whether or not the perpetrators have been apprehended.

 

  1. Consistent with Title 20A-MRSA, Section 1001(17) and (18), each school board in the State must adopt a school bomb threat policy consistent with the protocol outlined in #1, above, and shall include in the student handbook a section that addresses in detail the school’s bomb threat policies and protocols.  This handbook section must also explain to the students and their families the educational and legal consequences of making a bomb threat to a school.

 

  1. Based upon our research and recommendations, the Department proposes the following for consideration in the adoption of school board bomb threat policies: 

 

    1. Schools should ensure that all bomb threats are reported to the  appropriate local law enforcement agency.  Law enforcement officers, with the strong cooperation of educators, will pursue the investigation and subsequent prosecution of all perpetrators, encouraging boards to use strong sanctions in cases where students are the perpetrators.  Students will be provided with information that bomb threats constitute not only a violation of school policy but also a violation of civil and criminal law.  Maine’s law enforcement community has assured us of their resolve to maintain our schools, communities, and our State as the safest of all places in America.

 

    1. Communities should come together so that school officials, law enforcement, parents and the public can agree on the more measured, less extreme interventions that are appropriate to a particular kind of threat.  The threat assessment should ensure that the decision-makers will be supported in choosing a response that is in proportion to the threat, and limited to what is necessary to ensure safety.

 

    1. The policy should be explicit in stating that lost instructional time or disrupted programs due to a bomb threat will be rescheduled at the earliest appropriate opportunity. 

 

    1. The Crisis Response Plan required under Title 20-A, MRSA, Section 1001(16), should include or be aligned with the provisions regarding bomb threats.  The following areas should be addressed:

 

                                                                                 i.            threat assessment;

                                                                               ii.            building evacuation and re-entry processes;

                                                                              iii.            incident command and control protocols;

                                                                              iv.            communication contacts and bomb threat reporting practices;

                                                                                v.            parent notification process;

                                                                              vi.            training for current and future staff members; and,

                                                                             vii.            support services for students and staff.

 

    1. Consistent with the adoption of the Student Code of Conduct Title 20-A, MRSA, Section 1001 (15), the policy should indicate that making a bomb threat constitutes unacceptable student behavior and will entail disciplinary action that includes providing information to the appropriate law enforcement authorities. 

 

    1. Consistent with Title 20-A, Section 1001 (9) and (9-A) regarding students expelled or suspended, disciplinary sanctions should be developed for students involved with bomb threats.

 

    1. Once a year, district personnel in conjunction with appropriate local officials (law enforcement, fire, rescue and emergency preparedness), should evaluate the district’s Crisis Response Plan and assess the implementation of the bomb threat response policies.

 

In summary, it should be noted that it remains the intent of the Maine Department of Education to maintain a full partnership with all school administrative units to minimize the number and impact of bomb threats occurring within the schools of this state, and to ensure that they remain the safest environments possible.  Toward this end, staff in the Department remain available to assist any local school board, school administrative unit, and/or school staff with all phases of their school safety program.  Requests for assistance should be directed to:  Roger Richards at the Maine Department of Education, phone no. (207) 624-6500, or by e-mail at roger.richards@state.me.us.

 

JDA/DNS/gdw