If any of you want something you can do to help protect your kids at school.
This is not meant to be political, and is not meant to address any specific recent events, so I hope it does not get edited or removed. As some of you know, I am a forensic psychologist by profession. A large part of my work involves me working with behavioral threat assessment teams whose purpose and goal is to stop targeted violence (mass shootings being an example). This work has led to me consulting with school districts, corporations, religious organizations, and other groups to help them set up and run their threat assessment programs. As such, threat assessment is an extremely important topic to me. It becomes even more important following horrific school shootings, because I often see people ask “what can we do?” The answers are oftentimes heavily politicized or boil down to “nothing.” Nothing infuriates me more than this discourse. Threat assessment is the process of a multidisciplinary team identifying, assessing, and mitigating risks of violence before a shot is fired, because as we see over and over, once a bullet leaves a chamber it is already too late. This process is based on research evidence which identifies warning signs and problematic behaviors and stop people, for example, on step 2 of what might be a 9 step path to becoming an active shooter. It is used by the Secret Service and other agencies. I can also provide anecdotal and research evidence I myself have conducted working directly with school districts that it works.
So if it works, why isn’t it used by all of our school districts? The reasons are varied but usually revolve around lack of resources. A bill was introduced to the House in 2019 which would have greatly increased resources available to create threat assessment teams and actually keep kids safe. It did not get through committee however, because politicians across the spectrum are more interested in getting their Twitter sound bites and gotcha moments. So if you find yourself wondering what you can do and are tired of the hyper-politicized gun control debate, be better than our elected leaders. Democrat, Republican, or otherwise, do something substantive. Contact your representative and encourage them to figure out how to get threat assessment teams in each school district.
More effective however, would be to contact your local school district and ask if they have a behavioral threat assessment team. If they say yes, ask who is on it and if they say they “just have school resource officers in the schools”, then they do not have a threat assessment team. Demand that they get one immediately. If they have no idea where to start, the state of Virginia mandates that all districts have threat assessment teams since the Virginia Tech shooting and have amazing resources (linked below) to get districts started. Mark Follman, a journalist with Mother Jones, has spent the better part of the last decade working with the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals and recently released a book that is also an excellent resource for someone wanting to start at the ground floor of understanding threat assessment (also linked below). Getting these teams in each district will actually do something to keep kids safe. The video describing the process and bill that went to the House that I mentioned is linked below for anyone interested in that as well.
Again, I apologize if this belongs in a different category. I just know a lot of parents are looking for something they can do to make a difference, and I feel strongly this is a good place to begin for many.