The Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center has researched school attacks for nearly 20 years. The center is authorized by Congress to ensure safety in public spaces including schools.
Lina Alathari, who led the team that created the guide, joined “CBS This Morning” Thursday and discussed how implementing a threat assessment program can help people intervene before school shootings happen.
“This guide takes you through actionable step-by-step instructions of how to do that,” Alathari said, “How to set up a threat assessment program in school, which constitutes establishing a threat assessment team that’s multidisciplinary, identifying concerning and prohibiting behaviors, having a mechanism for reporting behavior and doing a training for stakeholders.”
Alathari said having a threat assessment program means having standards in place where teachers and peers can identify students who might be exhibiting questionable behavior or experiencing some sort of distress.
“How to gather information from multiple sources on the student’s behavior, their circumstances, how they cope with challenges and setbacks,” Alathari said. “So that you can assess whether they have a risk of engaging in harm to themselves or others and then identifying what intervention strategies can we put in place to mitigate that risk.”
According to Alathari, schools have been engaging in threat assessment since Columbine, when the Secret Service released the original study on school shooters. The guide also looks at access to weapons as one component of the assessment.
“We take a holistic approach when we’re examining these students,” Alathari said. “So if you’re doing an assessment on a student, you want to look at everything going on in their life. You’re looking at everything that would increase or decrease the risk of violence. “
But Alathari says uniform application of the program is key.
“Just from talking to schools across the country, people have different practices,” Alathari said. “I think what this guide will do is really promote where you can have best practices. Where you can have a mechanism in place so that these signs are not missed.”