What’s the Best Threat Assessment Tool?

The Best Threat Assessment Tool

The best threat assessment tool is awareness. Being aware of our surroundings and paying attention to anything that seems out of place, out of context, or causes us to hesitate, is a vital tool for threat assessment.

According to Gavin de Becker, our intuition informs us at all times, even when we are busy attending to other business. Those feelings of fear, apprehension, hesitation, and doubt are signals from our intuition that something is wrong and we need to pay attention. Too often, we ignore or minimize these signals.

This week, I’d like to ask you to pay close attention to your surroundings and the nuances of others’ behavior. Listen to your intuition and see what you can learn.

You might notice some unusual activity in an area of your school that is normally off limits. Perhaps you notice something out of place, someone you don’t know in the parking lot, or behavior that seems unusual.

We need to be able to recognize that which is typical of someone’s behavior, so we can notice when something atypical is happening. If a previously calm and steady student, parent or staff member suddenly erupts in anger or becomes increasingly combative or agitated, we are being given clues that demand our attention.

Is someone complaining that  he or she is “always a victim”? Is a middle school student reporting increased bullying?  Does a freshman boy seem more withdrawn than the last time you spoke with him? Is your English teacher experiencing increased work, family or other stress?

Make attention your best tool for one week, and let me know what you learn by contacting me here. I look forward to hearing from you!

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School Violence Rates Increase in the Spring

School Violence

In a recent post, I wrote about the reality of higher suicide rates in the Spring. We also need to be exceedingly vigilant about the warning signs of violence during the spring months. Here’s why:

School Violence Rates Increase in the Spring

In my research, I found a total of 100 confirmed injuries or deaths by shooting or stabbing in secondary and post-secondary schools during the months of April and May in the United States. Of course, we want to be vigilant at all times, but even more so during this time of year. Whether the factors responsible for these high springtime rates parallel those involved in increased spring rates of suicide is unclear. Further research may help to clarify the role played by social and biological factors in these high rates of violence.

Below is a list of April and May dates that have witnessed the tragedy of a school shooting (it may not be exhaustive). Some of the incidents have included the suicide of the perpetrator. Because individuals who are contemplating an act of targeted violence often identify with, and wish to emulate, previous attackers, specific dates may be significant to a given individual. Research has established that there is such a thing as a copycat effect, so it’s wise to familiarize your school staff with the dates below. This is a time to be particularly vigilant, especially with persons of concern. If you notice something that causes concern and aren’t sure what to do next, read this.

April 2, 1867, 1921, 2012
April 5, 1975
April 6, 1904, 1918
April 7, 1977, 1982
April 9, 1891, 1952, 2014
April 10, 1996
April 11, 2014
April 12, 1919, 1982, 1887, 1994, 2013
April 13, 2015
April 15, 1908, 1993
April 16, 1974, 1987, 1999, 2007, 2013, 2015
April 17, 1981, 1956, 1984
April 18, 1918, 2013
April 20, 1984, 1961, 1999
April 21, 2014
April 23, 1991
April 24, 1890, 1998, 2003
April 25, 1950
April 26, 1978, 2009
April 27, 1936, 1966, 2015
April 29, 1920
April 30, 1866
May 1, 1920, 1992 (2), 1958
May 4, 1956, 1970, 2014
May 5, 2014
May 6, 1930, 1940
May 7, 1935, 2004
May 8 2014
May 9, 2003
May 12, 2015
May 13, 1969
May 14, 1992 (2), 2013, 2014
May 15, 1920, 1954, 1970
May 16, 1986
May 17, 1889, 1984, 2001
May 18, 1906, 1927, 1979, 2009 (2)
May 19, 1998, 1936
May 20, 1988, 1999
May 21, 1998
May 22, 1930, 1968
May 23, 1940, 2011, 2014
May 24, 1878, 1879, 1979, 1993, 1998, 2015
May 26, 1994, 2000, 2012
May 28,1931

In addition, both the Oklahoma City Bombing and the Boston Marathon Bombing occurred during the spring, on April 19, 1995 and April 15, 2013, respectively.

I would not suggest that you disseminate this information to students or parents but I do recommend reminding all staff and parents that this is a time of year to increase vigilance regarding signs of both suicide and violence.

5 things you must know before hiring your next school safety specialist

5 things you must know

The decision to hire a school safety specialist to assess your school district’s safety and provide training for your staff is a daunting one. How can you be sure that the “expert” you hire is truly an expert? Does the person’s training and experience match up with your district’s needs?

Here are 5 things you must know before hiring your next school safety specialist:

  1. Does the school safety specialist understand how schools function? Has he or she ever worked in schools? Schools operate much differently than law enforcement and the corporate world. There are different constraints on time and budget, and specific mandates to be met. Students are present during most workdays, allowing for limited professional development opportunities. There may be union regulations that dictate how many hours your staff is available for meetings and training. It’s important to hire someone who understands these things and is willing to work creatively with you to meet your school district’s needs.
  2. Does the school safety specialist have the qualifications to do the work? Did you know that consulting is a woefully unregulated profession? Someone can read books and visit websites for content, and call him or herself a consultant. Be sure you check for education and other qualifications before committing to hire your next consultant.
  3. Does the school safety specialist provide a one-shot training or does he/she provide follow up consultation and guidance to make sure your staff truly understands concepts and knows how to implement them? Is the consultant available for assistance and questions after the training or site visit has been completed? Are these services included with training fees, or will you hesitate to call for assistance because you’ll have to pay more for them?
  4. Is the school safety specialist willing to provide references? Speaking with prior clients is the best way to assess the services the specialist provides. Does the person you are considering happily provide this option and encourage you to check up on him or her?
  5. Does the school safety specialist differentiate him or herself from others in the field in a way that is meaningful? It can be difficult to sort through all of the consultants, trainers and school safety specialists as many offer the same or similar services. Does the person you’re considering provide something that sets him or her apart from the others? It can even be something small like value packaging or creative funding options, but this difference should provide value for you, and make your job easier.

If you’d like to hire someone who has excelled in every one of these areas and can help you effectively increase your school’s level of safety, we should have a chat. Simply contact me by phone or email to discuss your needs and the ways in which I can help:  505-313-1092 [email protected].

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