PHOENIX — Republican lawmakers approved new mandates on schools to report violent incidents despite objections from Democrats who said legislators should focus instead on fixing shortfalls in education funding.
House Bill 2119, approved Wednesday in the House by a 31-27 party-line vote, now goes to the governor. The measure would require school districts to come up with procedures to report any suspected crime that involves a deadly weapon or serious physical injury.
That policy also would have to document “any conduct that poses a threat of death or serious physical injury to an employee, student or other person on school property.”
Most notably, it would require notice to a parent of any student involved.
Rep. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, said that apparently isn’t happening now. She cited testimony of a parent of a student at Mountain Trail Middle School in the Paradise Valley Unified School District who was one of three targets of a death threat. The suspect also made statements about “shooting up the school,” she said.
“No calls were made to parents,” Barto said.
“In fact, there was no policy in place to ensure this incident was immediately reported to anyone,” she said. The student who allegedly made the threat was arrested “only after the parents got involved and they called the police,” Barto said.
Rep. Gerae Peten, D-Goodyear, chided her GOP colleagues for saying they care about public safety and yet approved legislation earlier this year to allow people to drive onto public school campuses with loaded weapons in their vehicles.
Rep. Isela Blanc, D-Tempe, said if GOP lawmakers are concerned about school safety there are more concrete things they could do. Those include smaller class sizes and access to counselors and social workers, she said.
“But, of course, we don’t want to address those issues because it would require too much investment in children,” Blanc said.
And Rep. Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen, questioned whether creating police reports on every incident is appropriate, as these could affect a student’s long-term opportunities.
Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, agreed that the legislation would have long-term effects on children. “It keeps them alive,” he said.
Kavanagh said the only incidents that will be reported involve conduct that poses a threat of death of serious physical injury.
He wasn’t concerned about the possibility of police involvement, noting that, in most cases, the youths involved would be juveniles and not end up in adult court with adult records.