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Federal report reveals new data on school violence

Posted: 6:09 PM, Nov 08, 2019
Updated: 2019-11-08 18:09:05-05
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A new report studying incidents of school violence is unveiling more information about preventing tragedies.

The U.S. Secret Service released "Protecting America's Schools: A U.S. Secret Service Analysis of Targeted School Violence" after studying 41 incidents of attacks against K-12 schools from 2008 to 2017.

The report found there is no profile for the type of school targeted and no profile of a student attacker. It did identify these key findings:

 There is no profile of a student attacker, nor is there a profile for the type of school that has been targeted.
 Attackers usually had multiple motives, the most common involving a grievance with classmates.
 Most attackers used firearms, and firearms were most often acquired from the home.
 Most attackers had experienced psychological, behavioral, or developmental symptoms.
 Half of the attackers had interests in violent topics, like the Columbine shooting or Hitler.
 All attackers experienced social stressors involving their relationships with peers and/or romantic partners.
 Nearly every attacker experienced negative home life factors.
 Most attackers were victims of bullying, which was often observed by others.
 Most attackers had a history of school disciplinary actions, and many had prior contact with law enforcement.
 All attackers exhibited concerning behaviors. Most elicited concern from others, and most communicated their intent to attack.

"The secret service is a federal report in Florida unlike any other state in the union we now have laws about school safety to include behavioral threat assessment teams and because of that at the state level we’re doing a lot of things that the feds are recommending to other states that don’t have that," said John Newman, the chief of the security and emergency management division for Hillsborough County Schools.

Newman said they recently received three grants from the DOJ totaling more than $1 million. Two address mental health and one addresses target hardening. He said the district is the only one to receive all three.

"They're recommending a multi disciplined behavioral approach to threat assessments and this district’s way ahead of the game already following getting ready to implement a digital part of that. So we’re in line with what they’re recommending which tells me we’re doing the right thing at the right time," Newman said.

The report points to a multidisciplinary threat assessment team to prevent future tragedies.

"I talked to the person in charge of our threat assessment team and so far this school year between the schools and the district, we’ve conducted 244 threat assessments. Of those 130 have not been a threat. And we’ve had so far 14 students arrested for making threats. Either hoax threats or threats to kill," said Pasco County Schools spokesperson Linda Cobbe.

Cobbe said the district has positive behavior supports, including social emotional learning. The district also starting holding early release days nearly every month to allow for training for school staff on social, emotional learning to help recognize mental health issues.

"We’re taking a whole of student and a whole of school approach. It’s not just fences and gates and cameras and that kind of stuff it’s about understanding the student and understanding the needs not only in school but out of school as well. So I think the behavioral threat assessment team we’re doing not only is in line with the secret service program but it’s in best interest of what we’re tying to do with our kids in Pasco County anyway," said the district's director of safety and security, Chris Stowe.

Stowe said the district also received a $500,000 DOJ grant for behavioral threat assessment, allowing more manpower for analysts with the sheriff's office and assessment personnel with the school.

The full Secret Service report can be viewed here: https://www.secretservice.gov/data/protection/ntac/usss-analysis-of-targeted-school-violence.pdf