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home : latest news : state February 5, 2016

2/21/2013 2:17:00 PM
Panel vote requires teachers to report potential 'crazy evil people'

Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services

PHOENIX -- Calling it a key to preventing mass shootings, a House panel voted Wednesday to require teachers and health professionals to report potentially dangerous people to police.

Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said all the proposals to keep people safe with new regulations on guns or even police in classrooms really won't stop someone from shooting up a school. He said the only thing that really works is stopping it before it happens.

Kavanagh, sponsor of HB 2555, cited reports that various teachers and officials at Pima Community College knew about what was described as bizarre behavior by Jared Loughner before he killed six and wounded 13 two years ago in a Tucson Safeway parking lot, including then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

The same committee also approved HB 2618 to require additional training of police cadets on identifying those with dangerous mental illness so they can detain those people for additional mental health treatment.

But the panel also gave the go ahead for a third Kavanagh measure which would expand the ability of individuals to bring their guns into public buildings.

HB 2554 says that a mere sign banning weapons, by itself, would not be enough to make a building gun-free. Nor would be the availability of gun lockers somewhere else.

Instead, a government agency seeking to keep out armed patrons would have to provide lockers within 200 feet of the building entrance for individuals to store their guns.

That proposal drew sharp criticism from Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix, in part because of the cost to taxpayers of having to install lockers at all public buildings.

"I'm sorry there are some people that live in a state of paranoia where they have to have their weapon with them at all times,' he said. "But I don't see how that has to be at taxpayer cost.'

That comment drew derision from Rep. Sonny Borelli, R-Lake Havasu City.

"People are only paranoid because there are crazy evil people out there,' he responded. And Borelli, citing Gallego's Marine Corps experience, said he should know that.

"We've been in places where everybody's armed and you'd be surprised how polite people can really be.'

And Kavanagh said there's a simple solution for communities that don't want to install gun lockers: Let people carry their guns into the building.

None of this would affect courts, college campuses or other buildings that have guards and metal detectors, where guns still could be prohibited.

But it was the measure to mandate reporting of those with mental health problems that proved the most controversial.

Kavanagh said his legislation has safeguards. He said it requires someone to personally observe conduct that shows the person is a danger to self or others.

The only exception to that personal observation would be if there is "an actual communicated threat' and that the student or client has both the intent and the ability to carry out that threat.

Anyway, he said, calling the police does not necessarily mean anyone is going to be locked up in the state hospital. It simply gives officers the ability to analyze the situation and either call for a mental health crisis intervention team or detain the person for further observation.

None of that comforted Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert. He questioned forcing teachers to call the police based on someone being considered a "danger to self or others.

"When you're talking about kids on a playground and they're throwing rocks or they get in a fight, that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with mental illness or health issues,' Farnsworth said.

"I think that language is exceptionally broad,' he said. "I think you're going to have teachers that are going to be reporting kids who are a danger, but not a real danger that we normally expect.'

Kavanagh assured lawmakers that the state Department of Health Services would distribute information to teachers to identify true problems "so it's not just their own subjective personal opinion.'

And Kavanagh told colleagues they don't need to look far for an example of why the legislation is needed, citing the Loughner case as a prime exhibit.

"School officials knew about this and nobody thought to call the police,' he said.

But Farnsworth saw other problems with the measure, pointing to another provision to give teachers absolute immunity from lawsuit for calling police, whether the teacher acted reasonably or not.

"If they act in a way that they're going to report somebody just to get back at a parent that was upset at them, why should they have immunity?' he asked.

But Rep. David Livingston, R-Peoria, said he sees the legislation from a different perspective because his wife is a teacher.

"She has been threatened with her life at school before,' he told colleagues.

"It took three different times complaining to the principal at that time before the police were brought in,' Livingston said. "Thank goodness nothing happened in between.'

He said this legislation would make it crystal clear that teachers not only have the right but the obligation to report such behavior to police.

Borelli, however, said he's not convinced that having teachers use their judgment about a student's mental health -- and calling police -- is necessarily a good thing.

He said that teachers were at the forefront of efforts years ago to convince parents their children were suffering from attention deficit disorder and should be medicated with Ritalin.

"What's wrong with a teacher who feels threatened to pick up the phone and call the parent?' he asked.

All the measures now go to the full House.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, March 2, 2013
Article comment by: itsy bitsy Spider

As sure as one can be searching, Mr. @-itsy-bitsy. I couldn't find any provision for destroying the database in the event the Medical Marijuana Act was overturned at a later date. The protections are for those with a valid card, and those whose applications were denied. And as far as I could tell, the only revision Rep. Kavanagh made to the original was adding a prohibition against legal marijuana on grade school and high school campuses.

Posted: Friday, March 1, 2013
Article comment by: Common Sense

@ Wasting space

Your right, maybe I got a little wordy and strayed from the subject just a smidge. I guess I just needed to vent, but I said what I meant, and I meant what I said, and even if you say something I don't like or believe in, I will defend to the death your right to say it! lol

Posted: Friday, March 1, 2013
Article comment by: @ itsy bitsy spider

"Re: Medical Marijuana Act amendment/repeal HCR 2003 January 4, 2013
5. Since the State did accept applications and issue cards, but there's no provision for destroying those records, Rep. Kavanagh's proposal puts the 34,000+ people who applied in good faith at risk of future harassment--whether they abide by a negative outcome or not."

Are you sure about this? I thought there was a section in the original bill that protected card holders.

Posted: Friday, March 1, 2013
Article comment by: P F

@ Good Point

He certainly seems to have the lack of intellectual capacity prerequisite to be elected in AZ.

Or, TX.

All he needs, really, is to make it clear he'll in front of big-business ala Jan or Fife, tho'.

Posted: Friday, March 1, 2013
Article comment by: Wasting space

'Let's see' makes a short, inane comment.

'Common sense' triples down with a long one.

Posted: Friday, March 1, 2013
Article comment by: Good point.

@ P F
Do you think John Kavanagh is planning a run for Governor? With legislation like this?

Posted: Friday, March 1, 2013
Article comment by: Common Sense

@ Lets See

I like the way you generalize and call all teachers brainwashed liberal Marxists. What you are doing is making generalizations and assumptions without doing any real homework.

You like to use the word liberal and marxist without any real understanding of what they mean. What I have come to realize about a large percentage of hardworking , blue collar republicans is that they are:

1. easily distracted with "bread and circuses" like football, basketball, violent video games,nascar, 4-wheel drive trucks, Atvs and guns.
2. Republicans like to feel like they are somehow just a better all-around person than a liberal or democrat or anyone else for that matter.
3. Republicans don't attend church or worship any more than a democrat, yet they act like their opinions on issues like abortion, the death penalty, wars and guns are devinely inspired and come directly from God himself. If we allow for too many abortions, who is going to fight in all those wars our economy has become so dependent upon?
4. Unfortunately it is also apparent that a large percentage of republicans are extremely racist, and will do nothing in support of President Obama, just because of his skin color.
5. I have also come to realize that those same name calling, blue-collar, hard working, hard drinking, gun carrying, paranoid, red-neck, two-faced, hypocritical, republican pawns, have no problem signing up and using Marxist "socialistic", programs like unemployment insurance or food stamps or low income housing or public transportation, when times get desperate.
I have come to realize that a large majority of blue collar republicans, would rather do anything else with 'their' time, than educate themselves about the politics that are really taking place and are going to have a much more devastating effect on their lives and the lives of their children, if the top 2% get their way.
Get a clue, its not the liberals or democrats you need to worry about. This isn't about republicans vs.democrats, thats' just the smokescreen. this is about the wealthy outsourcing your jobs and selling this country right out from underneath us to the highest bidders.
If we keep letting the rich distract us with their "bread and circusses" we will all be working for bread and vouchers.

Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Article comment by: .44 Mag

Common sense has left the population........reminds me of the old PoGo comment. We have met the enemy and he is us. Something like that.....

Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Article comment by: Gray Grammarian

"Re: HB 2158, which eliminates the requirement for police officers to personally observe aberrant behavior in order to detain and hold someone at a hospital for 24 hours, thus allowing police to rely on what others say they have seen to hold someone for 48 hours."

This is fascinating, The removal of just one clause in two paragraphs turned a reasonable law into a travesty.

Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Article comment by: Lu Parker

I am a teacher of teens. I see weird, evil out of norm behavior everyday, but certainly not anything worth calling the cops about! Kids are kids. Legislating what must happen in the classroom is absurd! AZ seems to think everything school related is theirs to decide because they allocate a few pennies of tax payers money to education.
As a teacher, but soon to retire, I would not under any circumstances "report" such behavior unless it was so obvious a blind man on the street could see it. Same crap as reporting child abuse or this kid isn't eating right or on and on. You raise your kid...I'll teach him or her the best I can. All the rest is up to MOM and POP. Leave the government out of it.

Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Article comment by: P F

@ itsy

I know for a fact that the migration from the North to the Sun Belt after the gas crises of the '70s ruined my home state of Texas' politics.

Look at the moron running that hell hole now.

I have no explanation for Arizona's penchant for electing bigoted (Ed), criminal (Fife) or just plain stupid (guess) governors.


Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Article comment by: Jay Adams

@ Gaia Gurl
Do you think this would be great for the police? They're expected to be social workers now. Do they get to run a lie detector on the informants?

@ Common Sense
Yeah and the people who know what they're doing already do it. Like Borelli said, why not check with the parents first? I'd sure like to know my kid was acting weird before they call the cops.

Posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Article comment by: itsy bitsy Spider

Woo, Ms Gurl! Dr. Kavanagh really should have asked first, shouldn't he? But I did cite my sources for contemplation, ma'am...rather prominently.

Well, a teacher and health care march on Phoenix march on Phoenix might be quite proactive, Ms Heartman. Maybe Gaia Gurl would help you organize it.

Ms Jane, that truly is a good idea. One every State this side of the Mississippi should consider. Off the top of my head, I know five States migrations from the Eastern Seaboard have ruined and two more that northern migrations have knocked to their knees. All through legislative revisionism.

So true, Mr. Falbo. And guess which group of teachers would be recommending the other for psychiatric evaluation.

Posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Article comment by: itsy bitsy Spider

Mr. Basset, anyone taking the time to read a couple days' worth of search, ponder, and peck can call me anything they like.

And yes, I hope any action will not include cramming in-boxes with talking points. Let's all pretend our public officials want to hear from their constituents.

Posted: Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Article comment by: P F

@ itsy

Not all teachers are qualified to teach, much less be a diagnostic psychologist.

In this case, those who can, teach those who can't become Arizona legislators.

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