The Rise in School Violence and School Safety Challenges

Established Guidelines for School Safety (1)

The news media is in overdrive due to yet another recent Tik Tok threat sweeping the nation.  School districts around the country are ramping up security in response to the TikTok challenge that has recently gone viral. The challenge encouraged users to make “hoax threats” about a school shooting to occur on Friday, Dec. 17, 2021. Even though school staff and law enforcement officials say that they haven’t received any credible threats to follow through, many are increasing police presence on campus—and notifying parents—out of an abundance of caution.  The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said Friday it was monitoring the issue, but echoed local messages that there was no evidence of imminent danger.

This comes on the heels of the horrific shooting in Oxford Michigan last month where four students ages 14 to 17 were shot and killed at their high school.

The U.S. surgeon general recently issued an advisory saying the pandemic has contributed to already rising numbers in anxiety, depression, and suicide rates among adolescents.  Could this explain the dramatic uptick in threats and violence in our schools?  Of course, it can.

  • Officials see it.
  • Schools see it.
  • Parents see it.
  • And students see it.

So what can be done about it?  

This is Not a New Crisis, but it is a Worsening One

Established Guidelines for School Safety

“Mental health challenges in children, adolescents, and young adults are real and widespread. Even before the pandemic, an alarming number of young people struggled with feelings of helplessness, depression, and thoughts of suicide — and rates have increased over the past decade,” said Surgeon General Vivek Murthy. “The COVID-19 pandemic further altered their experiences at home, school, and in the community, and the effect on their mental health has been devastating. The future well-being of our country depends on how we support and invest in the next generation. Especially in this moment, as we work to protect the health of Americans in the face of a new variant, we also need to focus on how we can emerge stronger on the other side. This advisory shows us how we can all work together to step up for our children during this dual crisis.”

Beginning in July 2018, the National Threat Assessment Center (NATC) started publishing operational guides for preventing targeted school violence.  This assessment tool has been available to schools across the nation for over three years.  It is important to examine this report closely because, while the violence is increasing, the tools to help prevent it remain well-established.  As has been evidenced with recent events, it is clear that many schools are ill-prepared.  As litigation parses out after incidents occur, this information will likely often be used as a benchmark for establishing liability.

Download 2018 NTAC Guide Here

Download 2019 NTAC Update Guide Here

Download 2021 NTAC Update Guide Here

The U.S. Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC) was created in 1998 to provide guidance and training on threat assessment both within the U.S. Secret Service and to others with criminal justice and public safety responsibilities. Over the last 20 years, NTAC has conducted research, training, and consultation on threat assessment and the prevention of various forms of targeted violence. Following the tragedy at Columbine High School in April 1999, the Secret Service partnered with the Department of Education on a study that examined 37 incidents of targeted violence that occurred at elementary and secondary schools (K-12). The goal of that study, the Safe School Initiative (SSI), was to gather and analyze accurate and useful information about the thinking and behavior of students who commit these types of acts.

The information gleaned from these studies underscores the importance of establishing a threat assessment process in schools to enhance proactive targeted violence prevention efforts. The goal of a threat assessment is to identify students of concern, assess their risk for engaging in violence or other harmful activities, and identify intervention strategies to manage that risk. The operational guide provides actionable steps that schools can take to develop a comprehensive targeted violence prevention plan and create processes and procedures for conducting threat assessments on their campus. These steps serve as minimum guidelines and may need to be adapted for a particular school or district’s unique resources and challenges. For institutions that already have prevention plans or threat assessment capabilities in place, these guidelines may provide additional information to update existing protocols, or to formalize the structures of reporting, gathering information, and managing risk. 

DOWNLOAD THE 2018 GUIDE HERE

DOWNLOAD THE 2019 GUIDE HERE

DOWNLOAD THE 2021 GUIDE HERE

Is Social Media Contributing to the Problem?

In our social media-charged society, it’s easy to assume that children should not be on sites like Facebook and Tik Tok.  Concerns range from safety to attention span to diminished ‘real life’ social skills and other dangers of screen time.  The harsh reality is that our children are exposed to a lot when they use social media.

This is often the reason why social networks require children to be 13 years of age in order to create an account. Of course, the assumption is that at 13, children are at the beginning stages of being able to process what they are exposed to and the importance of what they are posting or not posting.

The truth is, if kids want to be on social media, they will find a way to be on social media.  The draw of instant gratification and "social acceptance" is very influential and social media inflates these things.  So, what does TikTok, in particular, do to moderate the content that's on its platform?  They use technology to inspect whatever's uploaded and they also have a safety team that reviews videos for possible policy violations. In addition, TikTok has also rolled out new tools to automatically remove uploaded content that might violate its guidelines. More importantly, they have policies in place to help law enforcement in the event of an emergency so that they can provide user data necessary to prevent potential harm (as permitted by law).

This is something that social media companies are going to have to continue to deal with and find ways to improve upon.  However, policing the millions and in some cases, billions of users on their platforms is a daunting challenge.  As communities begin to demand that they keep track of everything that gets posted at every time, it seems imminent that changes will happen.  Finding the balance between protecting its citizenry and unreasonably censoring its users is a challenge that no social media company has yet to conquer.

Additional Protection Should Violence Strike

Established guidelines provide schools with actionable information that each school or district can utilize and customize for their particular locations.  While the ultimate goal should be the prevention of violence, the reality is that there is no way to wholly prevent all incidents of violence from occurring.  This is where extra security measures come into play.

  • School Resource Officers - Increased security in schools can have a dramatic impact on safety for schools.  A school resource officer (SRO), according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), is a law enforcement officer “responsible for safety and crime prevention in schools.” They help train and educate school staff members and students, develop safety plans and serve as a liaison between schools and outside agencies, in addition to enforcing laws.  Not only do they help execute school safety plans, but SROs are instrumental in actual times of crisis.
  • Active Shooter Drills - If done properly, in conjunction with training, lockdown drills provide an opportunity to train staff and students, to build their personal confidence in their ability to respond in an actual crisis.  In a critical event, we naturally fall to our level of training which is what makes drills so important.
  • Mitigation Technology - In a critical incident, like an active shooter event, every second counts to save lives.  Utilizing technology to enhance safety and bridge communication gaps can make all the difference and can save lives.

By approaching school safety in an effort to prevent it, and then implementing stop gaps to reduce losses if violence strikes, schools are working to do all that they can to keep students and faculty safe.  

How ASR Can Help in a Critical Response Situation

ASR Alert Systems is a patented state-of-the-art critical incident response technology specializing in the field of alert notifications to Law Enforcement and First Responders in the event of an active shooter or other crisis. We are the only solution on the market today that goes DIRECT TO LAW ENFORCEMENT (we hold the patent on this technology).  All other commercially available solutions utilize third-party call centers.  The Patented ASR First Responder Dispatch Console is a stand-alone wireless (cellular) console that resides inside the dispatch centers or RTCC’s and does not require a computer or additional hardware.  The difference is our comprehensive information exchange DIRECT WITH LAW ENFORCEMENT that will be responding to a critical event.

Critical Incident Information Reported Includes:

  • Type of Emergency That is Being Reported
  • Name and Address of the Location That is Under Attack
  • Precise Location Information - Exactly Where Within the Facility the System was Activated

ASR is wholly dedicated to saving time to save lives and we approach our critical incident response technology from the perspective of those responding to crisis events. Our patented critical incident response technology uses hard-mounted buttons, mobile pendants, and a mobile phone application to DIRECTLY communicate with first responders in the area to significantly decrease response times to an active threat or crisis situation.  ASR offers the best critical incident response technology solution in the industry. Our reliable and redundant methods of alerting persons who are in danger, as well as providing the fastest notification to law enforcement by communicating directly with police dispatch are not matched.

At ASR, we understand the complexities of active shooter and other crisis events.  Our staff is trained in all facets of these events and we approach all of our systems from a vulnerability assessment perspective.  We know that communicating accurate information to first responders is key to reducing confusion and is critical for everyone involved.   #SavingTimeSavesLives

Let us help your organization with our patented technology today by requesting a free virtual demonstration.

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