A Tool to Help Secure Schools: Active Threat Assessment Training for Schools

There were more school shootings in 2018 than in any other year in recorded history; 23 more than in 2006 (the last highest year on record). School shootings not only have devastating impacts on victims, families, and communities - but on society as a whole. Victims of school shootings are not only those physically injured but all those present or associated with an event. These horrific events which target our most vulnerable, cherished members of society have steadily risen since the 1970s.

About Threat Assessment Training For Schools

Violence has become a common occurrence on school property, ranging from the most horrific shooting events to schoolyard fights. These constantly changing environments pose very real security concerns for school districts and those tasked with keeping our children safe.

These very frequent occurrences have prompted some districts to put police officers in schools, but this is not the norm.   Many schools employ monitors and other security personnel to work in schools; they face many challenges in effectively completing this task.

Creating a safe environment in which children can feel comfortable learning can be very challenging for your officers and school safety personnel for many reasons:

  1. Logistically schools are very tough buildings to control, with many entry and exit points;

  2. There are often not enough school security personnel;

  3. Some schools are located in high crime locations;

  4. School security personnel may be undertrained or inexperienced at dealing with violent or high-risk situations;   

  5. There may not be funding for proper security measures such as access control systems or camera surveillance systems;

  6. Weapons (including knives and firearms) are often widely available in the community.

Many of these issues are often beyond the control of those tasked with school safety.

Training - whether formal or informal - is not.

Active threat assessment training will help your school safety personnel to protect students and staff. It involves training your personnel to identify immediate and imminent threats.

There are many forms of threat assessment and each is relevant to protecting our schools in different ways. You can read more about threat assessment approaches in our Guide to Threat Assessment Approaches for Law Enforcement.

Threat Assessment Training for Schools – The Need is Clear

Lethal and non-lethal violence is a significant problem in our schools. The K-12 School Shooting Database available from the Naval Post Graduate School‘s Center for Homeland Defense and Security (CHDS) has eye opening statistics. There have been more than 1,300 school shooting incidents since 1970. 2018 had the greatest number of incidents since 1970, with 82 recorded events. The next highest year was 2006 with 59 incidents. Of the 1356 events, 67% involved a handgun and the remaining involved various long guns or both handguns and long guns.

Assessing Threats in Schools

As horrible as these events are, the number of incidents pales in comparison to non-lethal violence in our schools (thank god).  According to the US Center for Disease Control (CDCC) in their Youth Risk Behavior Survey, nearly 24% of students had been in a physical fight on school property in the past 12 months. This same survey also reports that 7% of students had missed school in 30 days before the survey because they thought they would not be safe at school or while they were traveling to and from it.   

 According to the Center for Education Statistics, there are more than 56.5 million students in primary and secondary schools across our country, which means that more then 13 million kids were involved in violent occurrences on school property.  That is way too many.

Training for School Security Personnel

Our students and staff face two distinct threats – those from inside and outside the school. In 51.5% of school shooting incidents were committed by a student. In fewer cases, the act was committed by an external threat. School security personnel need the ability to be able to help identify students who may be a threat (to support intervention) AND protect against external threats.

Training school safety personnel in techniques to recognize problems before they occur could potentially stop them before they happen.  This is difficult because schools are very diverse places.  A collection of children from many backgrounds, various religions, races socio-economic groups.  Schools are a collection of young people going through different stages of life.  Children are becoming more independent, young adults are turning into adults. 

Protecting from external threats is equally hard. Schools are important parts of our community. By design many school campuses are open and most have many entry and exit points making schools very vulnerable to external threats.

About Active Threat Assessment

About Active Threat Assessment

At Second Sight we use the term active threat assessment to describe the identification of immediate, imminent, or active threats by a law enforcement or school safety officer. These threats could be against a student or officer themselves. We use the term active threat assessment because of the many different approaches that rely upon the term.

Active threat assessment involves a focused observation of behaviors & actions. This threat assessment methodology involves systematically assessing environments, identifying suspicious individuals (also known as a person of interest), and evaluating the extent these persons are a threat.

A person of interest (POI) is an individual whom by their suspicious activity, lack of an explainable objective or display of threatening behavior becomes a target for further investigation through observation or physical interdiction. Further observation of the POI involves an assessment of threat indicators. Threat indicators are visual behaviors that imply an individual is deceptive, threatening, trying to hide in plain sight, or carrying contraband or weapons.

The Baseline in School Threat Assessment

Systematic observation begins with a baseline. A baseline is a minimum or starting point constructed of consistent behaviors from which other behaviors are compared.  

Your ability to identify threats is based on the identification of deviations from the baseline. A deviation is a behavior that is inconsistent with the baseline. A deviation does not always mean that the subject under observation is a person of interest. Rather, it is an indicator that someone’s behavior is inconsistent with the baseline and requires further observation.

Learn More About Active Threat Assessment

By using systematic observation your school safety and law enforcement officers can better assess the threat level of those (POI) they are observing in and around schools.  Being proficient in active threat assessment is an excellent tool that will allow your officers to identify and intervene with external threats and identify people who may be carrying weapons inside a school; providing a safer educational environment for our children.

Would you like to learn more about active threat assessment? Contact us or sign up for our free 1-hour Introduction to Active Threat Assessment training course.  

References

Kann, L., McManus, T., Harris, W. A., et al., Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance—United States, 2015. MMWR Surveill Summ 2016; 65 (No.6).

Riedman, David, and Desmond O’Neill. “CHDS – K-12 School Shooting Database.” Center for Homeland Defense and Security, February, 2019, www.chds.us/ssdb.

National Center for Education Statistics. “Back to school statistics”, February, 2019, https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=372.

Peter Forth