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Look back: Iowa City School District’s debates on student safety this year

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWWL) - The Iowa City Community School District is working out specifics for proposed Crisis Response Teams to curb violence and prevent threats next school year.

What's been established so far is that a coordinator would work with mental health providers, local law enforcement and administration at each secondary school to create safety teams at each middle and high school building.

Board members have said they feel they need a standardized procedure to follow; safeguarding against threats like when a student brought a gun to Tate High School in September.

The district hopes these crisis response teams will be a version of previous Threat Assessment Teams which are more in-touch with communities that voiced concern throughout 2019.

At a meeting on September 24, school board members admitted a rushed approach had confused and frustrated many people.

“The intent was, ‘We’ve got to get ahead of this,'” School Board member JP Claussen said in September. “But the impact has been delay, consternation, confusion.”

Claussen was responding to community groups like the Black Voices Project, which had voiced concerns about disproportionate policing and data security, as the district was proposing to monitor students' social media channels.

“When you put information in front of a person who doesn’t have the ‘need to know’, or the right to see that, you’re putting kids at risk,” Marian Coleman with the Black Voices Project said in August.

Police involvement has been a point of contention as well. A safety commission within the district made eight recommendations to the board in April, one of which was School Resource Officers at each secondary school. SROs are fully-sworn officers who report to schools to monitor threats in person.

The board says it never considered pursuing this but did try on the other seven, one of which was the Threat Assessment Teams.

The new crisis response teams would go into effect next school year at the earliest. A timeline on the board's website shows the district will reach out to over 20 community partners, like the Black Voices Project, starting in January.

Travis Breese

Reporter, Iowa City

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