- As part of an 18-page school safety policy recently adopted by the Montgomery County Board of Education in Maryland, the school district is creating behavioral threat assessment teams for each school and to serve across. It is also establishing an incident reporting management system that will track incidents involving health, safety and security of students and staff members and include guidelines for giving responses, WTOP reports.
- A school resource officer and a mental health professional will be part of each behavioral threat assessment team in the district. The teams will monitor and appraise the behaviors of students, teachers and staff members to identify potential threats to individuals at the school or to the school itself.
- Principals at each school will also be responsible for making sure that each school has an on-site crisis team in place and these teams are properly trained in de-escalation techniques and physical intervention skills.
While there have been fewer incidents of school violence so far this year, 2018 had the highest incident of school shootings in recorded history with 97 incidents reported in the nation. This increase in school violence prompted the creation of a Federal Commission on School Safety which developed multiple suggestions, but ultimately put the responsibility for preventing violence back on individual states. As a result, most school districts are crafting updated policies regarding school violence that are incorporating new state laws about gun control policies and other school safety measures required by state legislatures.
These school safety policies also often include ways to monitor activity at school and identify threats to students and staff safety. Some of these include hardened security policies such as installing metal detectors and security cameras, though these measures have incited some protests over concerns about privacy. Using web filters and monitoring social media accounts are other popular monitoring methods, though these also have raised privacy concerns. Incident reporting software is another way to track potential problems with students at school.
The creation of threat assessment teams is also gaining traction. Some states, such as Texas, now require school districts to create threat assessment teams to use available measures to identify possible threats and head off trouble before it reaches the crisis stage. As Shelley Garrett, the executive director of administrative services for Mesquite Independent School District in Texas, noted, “The basic tenets are to identify a threat, whether it’s an expressed threat or if somebody poses a threat — to assess it and most importantly, to manage it. What we’re trying to do is to get to root causes with students.”
The National Association of School Psychologists recommends the use of such teams as a way to help prevent school violence. Most teams include mental health professionals as well as school resource officers who have been properly trained in the use of social-emotional learning skills so that they use approaches that de-escalate violence rather than adding to the stress of the situation. The U.S. Secret Service has also created an Operational Guide for Preventing Targeted School Violence using a threat assessment model.