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School Safety Bill Signed into Law

Includes WHA amendments protecting health care providers acting in good faith

March 30, 2018

On March 26, Gov. Scott Walker’s School Safety Plan was signed into law as 2017 Act 143, which included key WHA-promoted amendments to a statute-based reporting obligation on health care professionals first proposed by the Governor in mid-March.

WHA raised concerns that the bill as originally drafted was inconsistent with nationally recognized duty-to-warn and emergency detention standards, and left health care providers acting in good faith vulnerable to having their professional judgment second guessed by prosecutors and trial attorneys.

While Act 143 retains a statutory reporting obligation on health care professionals, key WHA changes to the bill included:

  • Amending the reporting obligation consistent with current standards. The original bill language created an additional and vague reporting standard that would have required reporting of any threat of violence in a school even when a health care provider in her professional judgment did not believe an imminent danger existed. WHA was successful in changing the bill’s language to require both a threat and a determination of a serious and imminent danger to school safety, which is consistent with duty-to-warn case law, HIPAA and imminent danger standards under Wisconsin’s emergency detention statute.

Thus, in practice, because the bill as amended better aligns with existing standards, there should be little impact on providers’ existing protocols when a health care provider perceives a serious and imminent danger to others.

  • Including civil and criminal immunities to protect against second-guessing of a professional’s judgment. While the original bill language created immunities when a health care provider made a report to law enforcement, the bill provided no protections to health care providers that in good faith and in their professional judgment determined that a threat was not subject to report. WHA expressed concerns that this left health care providers vulnerable to second guessing by prosecutors and law enforcement.

After highlighting similar statutes in other states, WHA was successful in amending the final bill to include civil and criminal immunity for health care providers who in good faith and in his or her professional judgment conclude that a threat does not pose a serious and imminent threat to the health or safety of a student, school employee or the public.

The incorporation of these changes to the school safety legislation to minimize reporting burdens on health care professionals come on the heels of several WHA-championed mental health emergency reforms signed into law March 7 as 2017 Act 140 (see http://www.wha.org/News/ValuedVoice/2018/03-09-2018#s1). A summary of those reforms is available in the WHA member portal, which can be accessed by clicking on the “WHA Members Only” icon on the www.wha.org website. In addition, a summary of sections 6, 20, and 23 of the School Safety Plan enacted as Act 143 that promulgates the health care professional reporting obligation in statute will be posted to the WHA member portal shortly.

For more information, contact Matthew Stanford, WHA General Counsel, at 608-274-1820 or mstanford@wha.org.
 

This story originally appeared in the March 30, 2018 edition of WHA Newsletter