A recent story in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle stated that Montana law prevents schools from sharing information about potentially dangerous students, even though the federal government is asking that such data be made available, especially after an incident such as the shooting at Virginia Tech University in 2007.

The University of Montana has established the Behavioral Intervention Team in response to the need for information and action when a disruptive situation arises. Director of Residence Life Sandy Schoonover said on Tuesday, that the team identifies potentially troubled students, putting together a plan to help the student through any issues they may be having.

"It could be that they're suicidal, or that they're having some difficulties, then we come together as a team and discuss how we might be able to help that student be successful at the institution," Schoonover said. "We're a campus-wide team of appointed professionals responsible for identifying, assessing and responding to serious concerns and or disruptive behaviors by students who may threaten the health of safety of the campus community."

Student privacy rights are well protected on the University of Montana campus, however, Schoonover said the BIT (Behavioral Intervention Team) is able to share important information within their group.

"We are able to share information amongst the team because there's an educational right to know and that we're trying to work in the best interests of the campus and that student," Schoonover said. "Also, as part of our practice coming up this year for the BIT team, is that when a student is being discussed, that student will actually be sent a letter and will have contact with a BIT team member, letting them know that they're on BIT's radar."

Schoonover said at that point, the team might guide the student to the proper resources within the campus community that may help them resolve their problems or issues. She also addressed the issue of contacting the student's parents, even though the student is more than likely over 18, and be independent of their parents legal control.

"We can only get the parents involved if the student gives us permission," Schoonover said. "If we'd like to speak to parents, quite often we will speak to the student, 'Is it OK with you that we contact your parents and talk to them?" However, it has to be with the release of the student."

Schoonover said the BIT meets every week to discuss any problem students.

"We don't always have new cases every week, but sometimes we discuss ongoing cases," she said. "I would say that the average caseload over the past two years that I've been actively involved in the BIT are probably between 20 and 25 students. It really just depends on how many referrals we receive."

The Behavioral Response Team referral form includes situations such as malicious intimidation or harassment, threatening statements, possession of a dangerous weapon, physical or emotional isolation, diminished physical appearance or sanitary hygiene, erratic or bizarre behavior, stalking, abusive phone calls, and making inappropriate references to other incidences of publicized violence.

Director of Residence Life Sandra Schoonover