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Schools should set up ‘threat assessment teams’ to prevent massacres, Secret Service says

Caution tape (Dreamstime)

To prevent school shootings like the one in Parkland, Fla., in February, the U.S. Secret Service released a guide intended to help schools identify troubled students and other threats to their campuses.

The agency urges schools to establish “threat assessment teams” — groups comprising teachers, guidance counselors, coaches and administrators — who can meet regularly and identify threats. The guide was prepared by the Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center, which has researched violence in schools. The agency warns that there is no single profile of students who carry out shootings.

“These acts of violence were committed by students who were loners and socially isolated, and those who were well-liked and popular,” the agency said. “Rather than focusing solely on a student’s personality traits or school performance, we can learn much more about a student’s risk for violence by working through the threat assessment process.”

The guide calls for gathering “the most relevant information about the student’s communications and behaviors, the negative or stressful events the student has experienced, and the resources the student possesses to overcome those setbacks and challenges.”

Other Secret Service recommendations for schools include defining what would require staff to intervene, such as violent acts or bringing weapons on campus. The agency urges setting up a system for tips to be reported, such as an online form that ensures anonymity. Students are more likely to come forward when they don’t have to fear retribution, the guide says.

It also calls for having procedures to gauge threats, such as conducting interviews to figure out if students have mental-health issues, an inappropriate interest in weapons, access to weapons, or who have made unusual or threatening comments.


© 2018 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.