Colorado Bill Would Give Counselors More Discretion to Report School Threats

Bill sets high threshold, but allows for potential risks

POSTED:   02/16/2016 02:40:00 PM MST

Colorado lawmakers are considering a bill to give mental health counselors more latitude to speak up, without violating confidentiality rules, if they fear school safety is at stake.

In 2012, a school psychiatrist for Aurora theater shooter James Holmes took the professionally risky step of contacting University of Colorado police and Holmes’ mother to warn them of the danger he might pose to himself or others. A month later he shot and killed 12 people and wounded 70.

Under current law, mental health professionals nationally have a legal “duty” to report a threat that is imminent. Holmes had alluded to homicide but did not make a direct threat.

The Colorado proposal would grant more discretion to potential threats at schools that might not be imminent but still raise concern.

“This is a school safety bill,” said its sponsor, Rep. Mike Foote, a Democrat from Lafayette. “This provides the discretion for a mental health professional to disclose a threat that is made toward a school, everything from preschool to higher education. ”

Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt, a Republican from Colorado Springs, noted that when he was a military chaplain his consultations “were 100 percent confidential” for good reason.