Preparing for Threats beyond COVID19
- By Fred Burton
- December 16, 2020
As K-12 and higher education institutions work to reopen
schools, they must keep student health and safety top of mind,
even as they confront myriad challenges. In classrooms across
the nation, and the world, health screenings, social distancing
protocols, hybrid classroom models and countless other measures
will be in effect in an effort to combat COVID-19, but what is
the overall effect on student and faculty mental health? What new
challenges should schools prepare for as they welcome students back?
What process can be put in place, if any, for observations of abuse in
a remote operational environment?
Although maintaining student, faculty and community health during
the pandemic is critical, it is important for school districts, universities
and colleges to remember that as schools begin to reopen, the
physical and mental welfare of their communities are also imperative.
School districts and universities should make it a priority to incorporate
behavioral wellness and robust threat assessment into their
school reopening plans. Doing so can not only preempt acts of violence
and self-harm, it could save lives and foster a more supportive
and nurturing learning environment for all.
A Critical Partner in Prevention
Threat assessment protocols are meant to foster partnership between
school safety and resource teams, enabling mental health and counseling
staff, as well as school administrators to collaborate.
Being on the lookout for student, faculty and even community
warning signs of potential threats can be a challenge for school safety
and counseling leadership, especially when they lack the tools to
quickly and efficiently share information and reflections. Many of
these leaders are also having to share records with districts when
students switch schools, highlighting yet another example of the need
for threat assessment solutions.
Helping school leaders efficiently analyze, investigate and assess
behaviors of concern are critical to ensuring school communities are
safe for everyone. By aggregating and securely storing data, threat
assessment solutions help team members pinpoint pre-incident indicators
that can help prevent acts of violence, suicide, bullying and
depression before they manifest into crises. Better collaboration
results in quicker referrals to instructional programs, counseling,
meditation and other proactive interventions.
Identifying Early-warning Signs
According to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, incidents
of targeted violence are rarely impulsive. On average, plans of
violence are formulated and prepared at least two weeks in advance
of the actual incident, whether it is an act of self-harm or larger scale,
even potentially school-wide or community violence.
History has revealed that in incidents involving students or others
in the school community, early warning signs are always present.
Using the help of innovative technology counselors, school resources
officers and even teachers can gain and share visibility to concerning
behaviors and take appropriate action.
Students returning from uncertain family situations, economic
hardships and other effects of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis will
bring with them a uniquely complex set of issues, it is vital for school
leaders to keep the impact of these challenges on students. Breaking
through the noise of the ever shifting pandemic news and tuning into
the early warning signs of physical and emotional threats will ensure
school leaders are responsive to issues unfolding in their student and
Digitizing School Safety into a Single Pane of Glass
Today, threat assessment solutions can provide school leaders with
single-point platforms that generate highly secure, real-time data in
one place. At-risk students and adult threat actors may be securely
monitored, and any pre-incident indicators consolidated into user
friendly platforms that give school resource teams a holistic view of
each potential threat.
Employing threat assessment solutions gives safety departments
more time to implement appropriate interventions by navigating
their time away from digging up files, scanning social media and trying
to connect the dots.
The Unique Challenges of the 2020 School Year
The era of increased school violence, community unrest, coupled
with the health safety concerns of a pandemic, leave school leadership
in a state of heightened stress and anxiety, working to ensure
school is a safe place for everyone.
Budget cuts due to the pandemic should not be the reason we don’t
keep students, educators and communities safe from the threats of selfharm,
suicide, bullying or wide-scale violence. Investing in thoughtful,
proactive threat assessment solutions should be prioritized, enabling
educators and professionals who are already doing this work to do it
even better, and more efficiently than ever before.
This article originally appeared in the November December 2020 issue of Campus Security Today.
Fred Burton is the executive director, Center for Protective Intelligence at Ontic.