Editorial: School safety a complex challenge
BY World's Editorials Writers
Thursday, February 28, 2013
2/28/13 at 7:40 AM
Oklahoma leaders are learning just how difficult and challenging it is to address that population of Oklahomans who might be dangerous.
The Oklahoma Commission on School Safety, preparing to make legislative recommendations, is winding down its work and spent some time recently discussing a New York law that some believe could be helpful here.
The so-called Kendra's Law would make it easier to impose court-ordered conditions on people with mental illness to enable them to live in the community.
Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, commission chairman, believes it is something "we absolutely ought to purse and look at," and other panel members agreed.
But this is not a simple matter. As Lamb noted, civil rights issues enter in. Under current law, people with mental illnesses can be involuntarily committed only if they pose a risk to themselves or others. A change in that law undoubtedly would generate considerable debate and even opposition.
Under Kendra's Law, involuntary commitment could be ordered if for up to 72 hours if a treatment regimen isn't maintained. The law is named after Kendra Webdale, who was killed by a subway after being pushed in front of it by a man with schizophrenia.
While some advocates have called for more discussion and debate on the issue of detaining people with mental illnesses, Oklahoma Mental Health Commissioner Terri White makes the point that there are funding issues associated with any such changes.
Currently, the department would not be able to absorb a new population facing court-ordered treatment. As it is now, 70 percent of Oklahomans needing treatment cannot obtain it.
Kendra's Law, White noted, "requires that people receive care: If the judge orders it, they have to get it, and enactment of legislation like Kendra's Law without the investment to make sure the services are there to meet these people's needs would absolutely set up the law to fail."
Without new funding, court-ordered treatment would force other patients out of the treatment system.
The issue, as White said, is complex. As is the case with so many public issues, sometimes it comes down to money. If Oklahomans want to take the steps to make schools and other venues safer, they will have to pay for it.
Original Print Headline: Safe schools