COLUMBINE Review Commission recommends threat-assessment teams in every school

Thursday, May 17th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DENVER (AP) _ Every Colorado high school and middle school should create a team to evaluate threats, a task force appointed in the wake of the Columbine massacre recommended Thursday.

All reports of verbal and written threats should be taken seriously, the report of the Columbine Review Commission said.

``An inquiry into sensitive topics like these can be difficult, but all of them may well have to be considered and evaluated if the members of a team are to understand the extent to which a student's threatening conduct or statements should be taken seriously,'' the report said.

The commission, appointed by Gov. Bill Owens, also recommends changes in law enforcement response, including an increased emphasis on training in preparation for large-scale emergencies. It said the highest priority of the first officers on a scene of crisis should be to stop any ongoing assault.

The commission was formed shortly after the April 20, 1999, attack that left 15 dead, including gunmen Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, and about two dozen more wounded.

``No one can erase the horror of that day, or restore the losses suffered by the victims and their families,'' the governor wrote in an introduction to the report. ``Yet only by learning from Columbine can we hope to prevent similar tragedies in the future.''

The commission heard expert testimony while reviewing the shootings but did not have subpoena power and was unable to order Jefferson County Sheriff John Stone to testify. Stone had cited pending litigation in declining to talk to the group.

The report criticized him for that, saying law enforcement agencies were helpful to the commission ``with the notable exception of the conduct of Sheriff John Stone and a very few others.''

Commission chairman William Erickson has said the shootings might have been prevented had law-enforcement officials and educators picked up on signs that Harris and Klebold were heading for trouble.

Victims' families have filed nine lawsuits claiming the sheriff's office didn't follow through on reports that Harris made threats and then botched the response to the attack.

The father of a slain student had said he doesn't expect the report to reveal anything new. Brian Rohrbough, whose 15-year-old son, Daniel, was shot outside the school, had said he wanted the commission to urge the governor to empanel a grand jury.

``The commission was set up under a bad premise, which was not to point fingers,'' Rohrbough said.