CSU Program’s Success Inspires School Safety Legislation

Congressional legislation introduced yesterday by Congressman Drew Ferguson (GA03) to address school safety nationwide was largely inspired by the success of a program at Columbus State University and the expertise of CSU Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Chip Reese.

“Schools like Columbus State University are leading the way and building a national model to keep our schools safe and our students successful,” wrote Ferguson in an editorial today regarding his Behavioral Intervention Guidelines Act (BIG Act).

The idea for the legislation began when Ferguson reached out to CSU for input on how to keep schools safer. Reese, who helped create a behavioral intervention program at CSU in 2008, shared his expertise with Ferguson, as well as the success CSU has had using behavioral intervention.

“We have a community of care,” said Reese. “That community of care is looking to try to figure out how to help people, who might be in trouble or might be spiraling for whatever reason, get back on track and be successful.”

As described by the National Behavioral Intervention Team Association (NaBITA), behavioral intervention is a “focus on caring and preventative approach that incorporates the school, district, community resources and the family to support the student. Teams intervene with specialized knowledge to identify the earliest signs of potential crisis rather than waiting for clear signs of an impending threat and reacting. Teams develop success plans for students that may include disability support, treatment requirements, and academic assistance.”

Reese is a recognized leader in behavioral intervention teams and currently serves on the advisory board of NaBITA. Reese is also a former president of NaBITA, a past-chair of the University System of Georgia, Regents Advisory Committee for Student Conduct Officers, a founding member of the Georgia College Suicide Prevention Coalition, and a member of the University System of Georgia’s Public Safety Committee. He consults with organizations across the country and his operations manual for behavior intervention teams has been adopted by college and universities nationwide. He also created a De-Escalation Decision Tree (D2T) tool, which has been adapted for international use in the United Kingdom.

Created by Ferguson with input from Reese, the BIG Act would task the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - in consultation with the U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and a wide array of stakeholders - to develop best practices for behavioral intervention programs. The best practices would then be disseminated on federal websites, and the Department of Health and Human Services would provide technical assistance for elementary, secondary, and higher education institutions looking to create their own behavioral intervention team.