Last week brought word of yet another mass shooting, and once again we find ourselves asking whether there were indicators that might have allowed us to prevent it. From my vantage point, I can’t be sure of whether there were or weren’t, as I don’t know the full story. But, I do know that we need to continue to educate schools, workplaces and community organizations about the practice of threat assessment. It remains the best tool we have to prevent mass shootings.
These attacks are not spontaneous; they are meticulously planned. The time it takes to plan and move closer to an attack gives us a window where we can intervene, assist and redirect a person of concern.
Preventing Mass Shootings
It’s important to fully understand what threat assessment is, and what it isn’t. It is about preventing an attack. It is not about predicting it, which is extraordinarily difficult even for trained mental health professionals.
We begin this practice by educating everyone in our organization about the signs and signals to report. We ensure that each staff member, student and parent knows how and where to report concerns and that those concerns will be taken seriously and followed up by action. We must put together and train a team of building administrators, school resource officers and student services professionals to do the work of investigating, assessing and managing potential threats. This is not a one-time action; it is a process that may go on for years.
For a more in-depth explanation, read this series of articles on threat assessment. For a thoughtful, engaging look at the current state of threat assessment, read this article by Mark Follman published in the November/December 2015 issue of Mother Jones.
If you do not currently have a threat assessment process and team in place, consider that you may be exposing your district, campus or workplace to liability. Threat assessment is now seen as the emerging standard and is required for public colleges in three states, and in K-12 schools, in one state. Developing and training threat assessment teams is what I do, and I will work with you for an extended period of time to make sure your team has a full grasp of the concepts and procedures, and can confidently move forward on its own.
If you’re ready to get started on building your threat assessment team, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’m happy to answer your questions.