PHOENIX - Arizona lawmakers are pushing Governor Doug Ducey to act on school safety after the massacre of 17 students and teachers at a Florida school last week.
More than half of Arizona's state lawmakers signed a letter titled "Task Force on the Prevention of Potential School Violence." It asks the governor to form a task force to write protocols for identifying "students at risk of inflicting violence upon others."
The task force would also be charged with developing a system for getting help to those students identified as potentially troubled.
"This shouldn't be marketed as an effort to identify future shooters," said Sen. Martin Quezada, a Democrat who signed the bi-partisan letter. "This is an effort to identify kids who need additional services in our schools."
After the shooting in Florida, details emerged that the killer was a troubled teen with plenty of signs that violence was on the horizon. Unfortunately, those signs were either overlooked or ignored with horrific consequences.
Quezada said the task force would look to identify kids in a similar position years before they get to the point of violence.
"We need to do something to address the instances where there are young individuals who slip through the cracks of the system and don't get noticed and end up committing heinous crimes like this one," said Quezada.
Governor Ducey's office said he is considering the proposal and takes the "safety of children and the security of our schools very seriously."
Meantime, the letter provides no indication of how a school violence prevention program would be funded.
However, the task force itself would likely be made up of volunteers from the ranks of parents, teachers, school administrators and child experts.
Read the full letter sent to the Governor below:
Dear Governor Ducey,
In view of the recent school shooting in Broward County, Florida, we, the undersigned members of the Legislature, call upon you to act quickly, decisively and compassionately to protect all of Arizona's schoolchildren by convening a Task Force on the Prevention of Potential School Violence.
This Task Force should include parents, teachers, school administrators, school counselors, law enforcement and behavioral health professionals. It should be tasked with developing protocols for identifying students at risk of inflicting violence upon others and protocols for interventions to safeguard our children.
In Florida, teachers, friends, and others saw deeply troubling signs of potentially dangerous behavior by the alleged shooter. Tragically, the clues were not connected, and the terrible tragedy was not prevented. The Task Force we recommend can make those connections. School counselors must be a vital part of any solution to be developed, and we must ensure that we have sufficient capacity in schools to meet students' needs.
We cannot change the past. We cannot bring back the daughters, sons, wives, husbands killed in last week's shooting. But we can use this tragedy to protect others who may be at risk of the same violence right here in Arizona.
We, the undersigned legislators, stand ready to support all efforts to protect our children from violence and petition your leadership in this effort to prevent a school tragedy from occurring here in Arizona.
Respectfully, Mitzi Epstein, LD 18 Kirsten Engel, LD 10 Russell "Rusty" Bowers, LD 25 Rebecca Rios, LD 27 House Democratic Leader Randy Friese, MD, LD 9 House Assistant Democratic Leader Charlene Fernandez, LD 4 House Democratic Whip.