An Arkansas House committee has passed legislation that would create a list of people required to notify authorities if they believe there is a serious threat to a school. The bill also makes it a misdemeanor if someone fails to report a perceived threat.
HB 1437 lists over 35 occupations that would qualify a person as a mandated reporter. Those include teachers, licensed nurses, foster care workers and many others.
Anyone who is qualified, according to the list and "knowingly fails to notify law enforcement of a serious and imminent threat of violence in or targeted at a school," could be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor. A Class C misdemeanor would go to those who "recklessly" fail to report of a perceived threat.
Rep. Carol Dalby, R-Texarkana, the bill’s sponsor, presented the legislation to the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday. She says the legislation is modeled after existing state law.
"What we have done is to pattern this exactly after the current statute on the books for reporting child maltreatment. So if this looks familiar to those of you who have been in the judiciary for a while, this is patterned after that," Dalby said.
Kristi Bennett with the Texarkana, Arkansas Police Department brought the legislation to Dalby. According to Bennett, the Texarkana department already has a "See Something, Say Something" campaign and appointed an officer to be in charge of responding to complaints from residents concerning potential threats. When that officer learns of a potential threat, Bennett said the threat normally occurs days or even weeks earlier.
"Many of these employees, school administration and clergy members said that often times they were fearful of reporting because of the light of the media and what it could do to their reputation, which is understandable," Bennett said. She believed this new bill would help with that.
The bill protects those who contact law enforcement in good faith, believing there is a possible threat, from civil or criminal liability. However, anyone who knowingly makes a false report could be charged with a Class D felony.
The committee approved of the bill by a voice vote. It now heads to the House floor for a full vote.