Threat assessment key to preventing school violence, new report says

A team approach — including the work of local school boards — is needed to help students in distress and prevent school violence, according to an in-depth analysis by the U.S. Secret Service released Thursday.

“While communities can advance many school safety measures on their own, our experience tells us that keeping schools safe requires a team effort and the combined resources of the federal, state, and local governments; school boards; law enforcement; and the public,” U.S. Secret Service Director James M. Murray said.

The study, which analyzed 41 incidents of targeted school violence from 2008-17, promotes increased mental health awareness, comprehensive anti-bullying programs and a threat assessment model that involves school officials, health care, law enforcement and others in communities.

KASB has conducted several workshops on threat assessment, which promotes the use of teams within schools that determine if any student conduct constitutes a real threat and works with all students on conflict resolution, bullying prevention and mental health. Threat assessment also emphasizes the need for schools to create a positive climate where students feel safe to share concerns about where threats exist.

The Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center study found that all the attackers exhibited concerning behaviors and in nearly all cases had communicated their threats. In most cases, however, no one acted on the threat either out of fear, not believing the attacker or simple misjudgment.

“Students, school personnel, and family members should be encouraged to report troubling or concerning behaviors to ensure that those in positions of authority can intervene,” the study said.

The study identified some of the common factors of attackers. All of them had experienced stress in their relationships with either peers, romantic partners, or family. Nearly all had negative home life experiences and most had been victims of bullying; often witnessed by others.

“It is critical that schools implement comprehensive programs designed to promote safe and positive school climates, where students feel empowered to report bullying when they witness it or are victims of it, and where school officials and other authorities act to intervene,” the study said.

Most attackers had a history of school disciplinary problems and experienced psychological, behavioral or developmental symptoms.

The study said teachers, administrators, mental health professionals and law enforcement should collaborate and use the threat assessment model to identify students who are having problems and assesses their risk of committing harm so that interventions can be used early on to prevent behaviors from escalating into violence.

The study also noted that many of the schools that had experienced tragedies had already implemented physical safety measures, such as cameras, school resource officers and lockdown procedures. “Prevention is key,” the study said.

Here is a link to the study.

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