Se­cret Ser­vice urges schools to cre­ate teams to as­sess threats.

Se­cret Ser­vice urges ed­u­ca­tors to cre­ate ‘threat assess­ments’

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVID SHERFINSKI

The Se­cret Ser­vice on Thurs­day urged schools to cre­ate “threat as­sess­ment” teams to flag stu­dents who show signs of pos­si­ble vi­o­lence.

The Ser­vice, in a set of rec­om­men­da­tions to school dis­tricts na­tion­wide, said the teams should use ed­u­ca­tors and armed school re­source of­fi­cers to get a broad pic­ture of stu­dents’ be­hav­ior, in­clud­ing re­view­ing on­line ac­tiv­i­ties, class as­sign­ments and even go­ing through lock­ers or desks.

“We take a holis­tic ap­proach when we’re ex­am­in­ing these stu­dents,” said Lina Alathari, chief of the Na­tional Threat As­sess­ment Cen­ter (NTAC), which pro­duced the re­port. “So if you’re do­ing an as­sess­ment on a stu­dent, you want to look at ev­ery­thing go­ing on in their life.”

The rec­om­men­da­tions were the lat­est ef­fort by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to re­spond to Fe­bru­ary’s school shoot­ing in Park­land, Florida, where 17 peo­ple died.

The FBI has ac­knowl­edged that the bureau failed to fol­low up on mul­ti­ple tips that Niko­las Cruz, the man ac­cused of the Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School shoot­ing, had a gun and wanted to hurt peo­ple.

There also have been ques­tions about whether lo­cal school of­fi­cials could have done more to flag Mr. Cruz as po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous af­ter he had racked up dozens of dis­ci­plinary in­frac­tions.

Mr. Cruz faces 34 counts of premed­i­tated mur­der and at­tempted mur­der.

Ms. Alathari said of­fi­cials should pay close at­ten­tion to stu­dents who in­di­cate they could harm them­selves or oth­ers, and who also have ac­cess to weapons.

“If there are weapons at home, the team should de­ter­mine if they are stored ap­pro­pri­ately and if the stu­dent knows how to use them or has done so in the past,” she and the other au­thors wrote in the re­port.

But the re­port also said that firearms are not the only weapons to be con­cerned about, not­ing that ex­plo­sives and knives also have been used in at­tacks.

The re­port said the thresh­old for in­ter­ven­tion should be “rel­a­tively low” so that teams can iden­tify dis­tressed stu­dents be­fore it’s too late.

An ear­lier NTAC re­port that ex­am­ined at­tacks on schools found that not ev­ery stu­dent di­rectly threat­ened their tar­gets prior to at­tack, but in 81 per­cent of in­ci­dents an­other per­son was at least aware of what the stu­dent was think­ing or plan­ning.

Pres­i­dent Trump, who set up a school safety com­mis­sion af­ter the Feb. 14 shoot­ing, has em­pha­sized in­creas­ing the num­ber of armed of­fi­cers in schools as a rem­edy for the re­cent spate of shoot­ings.

An armed of­fi­cer who was on hand at Stone­man Dou­glas no­tably did not en­ter the build­ing, though an of­fi­cer at Great Mills High School in Mary­land did quickly en­gage a shooter in March and has been cred­ited with help­ing avert a po­ten­tially more dire out­come. One stu­dent died in con­nec­tion to the at­tack and the shooter took his own life.

Ms. Alathari said on “CBS This Morn­ing” that many schools started im­ple­ment­ing their own threat as­sess­ment pro­grams af­ter the 1999 Columbine High School shoot­ing.

“Just from talk­ing to schools across the coun­try, peo­ple have dif­fer­ent prac­tices,” she said. “I think what this guide will do is re­ally pro­mote where you can have best prac­tices — where you can have a mech­a­nism in place so that these signs are not missed.”

Forty-two per­cent of all pub­lic schools re­ported hav­ing a threat as­sess­ment team dur­ing the 2015-2016 school year, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Cen­ter for Ed­u­ca­tion Sta­tis­tics.

A sweep­ing law signed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott in March in re­sponse to the Stone­man Dou­glas shoot­ing re­quires ev­ery school in the state to have such a team with ex­per­tise in men­tal health coun­sel­ing, teach­ing, law en­force­ment, and ad­min­is­tra­tion. The teams are sup­posed to meet monthly to re­view po­ten­tial threats to stu­dents and staff.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The Se­cret Ser­vice’s rec­om­men­da­tions were the lat­est ef­fort by Trump of­fi­cials to re­spond to the Park­land, Florida, shoot­ing in Fe­bru­ary where 17 peo­ple were killed.

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