At a news conference today, the city of Findlay’s Reducing Risk Committee and the city and county schools discussed the efforts being taken in Hancock County to prevent school violence.
Members of the panel included Precia Stuby, committee chairperson and executive director of the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board of Hancock County; Randy VanDyne, assistant vice president for sponsored programs and professional services for the University and the University’s All Hazards Training Center; Matt Bruskotter, program manager with the University’s All Hazards Training Center; Larry Busdeker, superintendent of the Hancock County Educational Service Center; Dean Wittwer, superintendent of Findlay City Schools; and Kathy Kreuchauf, president of the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation.
“We believe that a unified approach to school violence prevention across the entire county will pay huge dividends in the future, as we will be able to identify potential threats, and intervene before the threats leads to violent acts,” said Busdeker.
The potential for school violence exists in every school system; the recent events in Columbine and Chardon provide devastating examples of this. According to the schoolsafety.com website, in schools across the U.S. in 2010, there were 15 school shootings, 14 gun threats, three school fires, 45 credible bomb threats and four incidents of actual explosive devices found in schools.
Since 2007, the Findlay city and Hancock county schools, the Hancock County Sheriff, the Findlay Police Department, the Hancock County Board of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services and The University of Findlay (UF) have partnered on a county-wide Reducing Risk in Educational Settings committee. The committee was formed to develop a best practices plan, which focuses on three primary areas to ensure safe and healthy environments for students to prosper: basic safety, school climate and threat assessment management.
Since its inception, the committee, in partnership with The University of Findlay’s All Hazards Training Center (AHTC), have implemented basic training across the county in anti-bullying; bus driver safety; and crisis preparedness, planning, response and recovery. The majority of the school buildings in the county have been assessed from a physical security perspective.
In 2011, the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation awarded a one-year grant of $73,600 from the Madeleine T. Schneider Fund to the AHTC for the development and implementation of customized, Threat Assessment Management (TAM) programs in all eight school buildings in Hancock County with high schools. TAM is a behavioral based school violence prevention technique developed by the U.S. Secret Service to identify threats to their protectees.
For more information, view the National Threat Assessment Center’s Secret Service Safe School Initiative report at http://www.secretservice.gov/ntac_ssi.shtml.
“While it is important that we train our students, faculty and staff to respond to potential acts of school violence, it is even more important to develop and implement ways to prevent those acts from even occurring. The TAM programs we are implementing will certainly help us do that,” said Wittwer.
To date, UF has performed policy surveys and developed plans for each of the eight high schools in the county. All of theses plans are designed to help schools, parents and students prevent violence from occurring on campus by identifying “behaviors of concern” and providing help to those individuals exhibiting these behaviors before a violent act is committed.
Beginning this fall, training will occur at each of the eight buildings. The members of each building’s Behavioral Intervention Teams will be trained on how to implement the process of collecting information, analyzing the information and intervening when appropriate to prevent acts of school violence. All school faculty and staff also will be trained on each building TAM plan and what their individual roles are – including the important role of intelligence gathering and communication.
Another important step in the process is the distribution of information to each school system’s local community to advise them of the school violence prevention programs being put in place, and inform them of their important role as intelligence collectors and communicators.
“It is important to note the critical role that each and every member of the school community plays in this overall effort,” said Stuby. “All community stakeholders are responsible for reporting unusual behavior and specific concerns to appropriate school officials in a timely manner, so that the information can be analyzed, and acted upon accordingly.”
For more information, please contact Stuby at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-424-1985.