threat management

Are Mass Attacks Domestic Terrorism?

I see a lot of people calling the two most recent mass shootings domestic terror attacks. If a different label gets us to start focusing on preventing these incidents like we have been preventing foreign terror attacks since 9/11 – with intelligence gathering, information sharing, and threat management – then call them whatever you want. Whether attacks are fueled by ideology, hate, or grievances in school, the workplace, or at home, there are opportunities for intervention and prevention.

According to the U.S. Secret Service Mass Attacks in Public Spaces (MAPS) report, ideology was a motive in 7% of the mass attacks in 2018. This was down considerably from 21% the previous year. However, in 78% of the attacks in 2018 and 79% in 2017, the perpetrator exhibited behaviors that caused concern in others.

active shooter mass attacks
U.S. Secret Service report on Mass Attacks in Public Spaces

The behaviors that elicited concerns were similar, regardless of the motives behind the shootings. Had these concerns been reported and investigated, the attacks could have potentially been averted.

The next mass shooting will not be prevented by stricter gun laws, arming more “good guys,” increasing security, or changing the national discourse. The next shooting probably has already been prevented because someone was concerned enough to call the police who then investigated and managed the threat. As the MAPS report recommends, the public needs to “See Something, Say Something,” and law enforcement needs to “Do Something.” Schools, workplaces, places of worship, and police departments must adopt a prevention mindset and have policies and procedures in place to identify, assess, and manage threats.

Bike Helmets Won’t Keep Your Kids Safe

A helmet won’t prevent your child from getting in a bike accident. Don’t get me wrong – make sure your kids wear their helmets! There is no doubt it will protect them if they do fall, but we hope it never comes to that.

As parents, we do a lot of things to keep our kids safe. We make them wear helmets when they ride their bikes. But we also teach them how to look both ways before they cross the street, watch for vehicles, and not be reckless on their bikes to prevent them from ever having to rely on that helmet. When we talk about school safety but don’t talk about ways to prevent school violence, we are neglecting the single most effective way to keep our children safe.

If your child’s school doesn’t focus on violence prevention efforts like behavioral threat assessment, have them call us. Common sense protective measures are essential, but let’s do things that make sure we never need to rely on those measures.

#activeshooter #beyonddrills #prevention #threatassessment #clearwallsafety

School Safety: The Importance of Threat Assessment

The following article by Paul Mascari on how threat assessment improves school safety is being re-posted from the December issue of the Wisconsin Association of School Business Official’s Taking Care of Business:

What did you know, when did you know it, and what did you do about it? Inevitably, these are the first questions asked of schools and law enforcement following any school shooting.

How Do You Stop an Active Shooter?

But how do you know and what do you do about it? If we could accurately predict violent acts, we would not be in the situation we are in with violence in our schools. There is considerable research on acts of mass violence, including school shootings, and the one thing they all have in common is the conclusion that there is no reliable profile for someone who will commit a school shooting.

So if mental health experts and law enforcement professionals cannot accurately predict violence, how can educators? The simple answer is – they can’t.

Behavioral Threat Assessment Prevents Violence

What schools can and should be doing is creating a threat assessment team and drafting a district-wide threat assessment policy. While the creation of School Safety Intervention Teams (SSIT) and attendance at mental health/threat assessment training is required under the most recent round of Wisconsin Department of Justice school safety grant funding, this is also the most effective proactive measure a district can take to prevent violence and keep schools safe.

Having served on and chaired numerous threat assessment teams, I can tell you the most important thing any team can do is meet regularly – especially when there is not a threat. Use the opportunity to discuss scenarios, review and refine policy, and take advantage of professional development opportunities as a team. While the training provided by the Office of School Safety is a significant first step, eight hours of training will not be enough for a team to be proficient if they do not take the initiative for further development.

Best Practice in School Safety

States like Virginia have been mandating threat assessment in schools for years. A threat assessment model adapted to the K-12 setting, the Virginia Student Threat Assessment Guidelines (VSTAG), was first developed in 2001 at the University of Virginia and has been the subject of numerous field tests and academic studies.

Because of its proven effectiveness in tests and studies, VSTAG is listed on the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices and is an excellent resource for threat assessment policy and procedure development.

Behavioral Threat Assessment Reduces Suspensions

Research also suggests that schools utilizing evidence-based programs like VSTAG see reduced rates of suspensions and racial disparities in school discipline. The Youth Violence Project at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education has a wealth of information and statistics to support the positive outcomes that come from using threat assessment.

There is no doubt that a heavy burden rests on any threat assessment team. What did you know, when did you know it, and what did you do about it? The good news is threat assessment works, and there are considerable evidence and real-world examples to prove it. If schools put time and effort into developing a sound threat assessment policy and threat assessment team, it undoubtedly will be the single best proactive measure they can take to make schools safer.