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Part 2 – Lessons Learned and Best Practices. Lowell Wolff, Wolff Consulting, LLC 701-235-4466 School Emergency Response: Best Practices. Create a “Community Network” A CPTED Audit of school buildings

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Part 2 lessons learned and best practices

Part 2 – Lessons Learned and Best Practices

Lowell Wolff, Wolff Consulting, LLC


School emergency response best practices
School Emergency Response:Best Practices

  • Create a “Community Network”

  • A CPTED Audit of school buildings

  • School Mission: a “safe and effective learning environment”

  • Partners: Probable Cause and Reasonable Suspicion

  • Threat Assessment Teams

  • Importance of school staff vigilance

  • Importance of Social Media

1 creating a community network
1. Creating a community network

  • Community Network that meet quarterly

    • School Resource Officers/Deputies

    • School Principals and counselors

    • States Attorney representation

  • Purpose

    • Identify new trends and happening in community/schools

    • Debrief effectiveness of previous actions

2 a cpted audit for every building
2. A CPTED audit for every building

  • CPTED – Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design

    • Part of the SRO/SRD training – widely available

    • Some instructors – Art Hushen – specifically focus on schools

    • Builds relationships between law enforcement and education

    • Legal implications

    • Reports/summaries of findings are exempt from open-records laws

3 school mission
3. School Mission

  • The mission of our school is to provide, “a safe and effective learning environment.”

    • Case law gives great latitude to actions taken to maintain safe/effective learning environment

    • Handbooks – no reasonable expectation of privacy

      • Lockers are district property – not the property of the student

    • Recognize police officers as people with a “legitimate education interest” in our students

      • Formally recognition of SROs in most recent FERPA update

      • Easier access to student records.

4 schools le partners
4. Schools & LE - partners

  • Probable Cause vs. Reasonable Suspicion: Officer/Deputies working with School Principals

    • Officers/Deputies must have probable cause

    • Principals only need reasonable suspicion

      • “in loco parentis” (in the absence of the parents) schools are given parental rights

    • Working together, there is exceptional latitude

    • Officers/Deputies should document principal’s request in their report

    • Base (and limit) actions on maintaining “a safe and effective learning environment.”

5 threat assessment teams
5. Threat Assessment Teams

  • Who has the most experience in protective intelligence and security preparation?

  • Result: Safe School Initiative

  • U.S. Secret Service Teams put on a two-day training: February 28-March 1, 2006

Safe school initiative findings
Safe School Initiative findings…

  • Targeted acts of violence were rarely sudden, impulsive acts – they were planned

  • Prior to the attacks, other people knew about the attackers idea or plan

  • Most attackers did not threaten their targets directly prior to advancing the attack

  • There is no accurate or useful “profile” of attackers –i.e. black trench costs, were gang members etc.

Safe school initiative findings1
Safe School Initiative findings…

  • Most attackers demonstrate behavior prior to the incident that caused others to be concerned

  • Most attackers had difficulty coping with a loss or failure. Many had considered or attempted suicide.

  • Many attackers felt bullied, persecuted or emotionally injured

  • Most attackers had access to and had used weapons prior to the attack

  • Despite the best attempts by law enforcement, shooting incidents were stopped by someone else.

Part 2 lessons learned and best practices

Is this really needed

at MY school?

It can’t happen here…


School shooters who are they
School Shooters – Who are They?

Typical School Shooter

  • 16 – years old

  • Caucasian

  • Depressed and/or suicidal

  • Male

  • Rural, “statistically safe” community

How schools can detect threats
How schools can detect threats?

  • Four Common Characteristics of shooters

    • They have access to guns

    • They have a grievance about a real or perceived injustice

    • They have an obsession about media violence

    • There are themes of violence in their writing assignments

How schools can detect threats1
How schools can detect threats?

Finding #2 Safe School Initiative: “Prior to the attacks, other people knew about the attackers idea or plan.”

  • 93% of attacks were planned in advance

  • In 81% of the cases, others knew of these plans

  • 78% have a history of suicide

  • 61% have documented cases of severe depression

Overview policy
Overview – Policy

Threat Assessment Team Policy

  • Creation of a District Policy

    • See page 1, “Delegation of Authority to the Threat Assessment Team”

  • FERPA and HIPPA exceptions

    • Awareness of Staff

  • Superintendent must advocate for its use

    • Principals may see its use as a personal failing

Overview case study
Overview – Case Study

Case Study:

  • North High School

  • April 10, 2007

  • How events unfolded

  • How the school responded

  • How the police department responded

The events unfold
The events unfold…

  • First-year teacher talks to

  • First-year counselor who reports behavior

  • To the building principal who reports behavior to

  • SRO and

  • Superintendent

  • A Threat Assessment Team is convened on the same day – 4:00 PM

Team members
Team Members

  • Principal and Assistant Principal

  • School Resource Officer

  • North High teachers

  • Ben Franklin Counselors knowing the student

  • District Office representation

  • Fargo Police Department – command staff

School response
School response…

  • Threat Assessment Teams meets

    • Hear about the behaviors

    • See and hear documentation of earlier experiences with the student

    • Develop a draft of immediate responses

    • Check with treatment providers

    • Request SRO do a home visit

School police response
School/police response…

  • Call the mental health provider

  • Conduct a search of the home

    • Student continues to be suspended

    • Manifestation determination hearing held

    • Homebound instruction agreed to by parents

Police response
Police response…

As 4/20 approaches…

  • House under 24/7 surveillance

  • Night/day shift overlap with concentration

  • Patrol saturation around North High

  • Low-key approach within the school

    • Staff awareness was on a need-to-know basis


As 4/20 approaches…

April 16,2007 New York Times headline reads:

  • “Virginia Tech shooting leaves 33 dead”

    And the nation asks

    why wasn’t there some kind of intervention!

What have we learned
What have we learned…

  • Educators (caregivers) underestimate threats

  • Law enforcement: focus on safety over compulsory attendance and educational concerns

  • Document the process

  • Assign next steps:

    • Manifestation determination hearing,

    • Educational placement,

      • No-trespass order – how long?

      • Home-bound instruction provided by the District

    • Expulsion process

What have we learned1
What have we learned…

  • Expulsion process can give you leverage with uncooperative parents regarding alternative placement

  • Documentation can be used by juvenile court system to inform or expedite court-ordered placement

    • FERPA release form

  • Relationships with law enforcement and judicial partners is Critical

6 importance of staff vigilance
6. Importance of staff vigilance

  • What are they looking for?

  • Finding #2 Safe School Initiative: “Prior to the attacks, other people knew about the attackers idea or plan.”

  • Watch student writing assignments and conversations…

  • Stories or conversations involving violence

    • 93% of attacks were planned in advance

    • In 81% of the cases, others knew of these plans

  • Writings or conversations reflecting suicidal/homicidal thoughts

    • 78% have a history of suicide

  • “Dark,” stories or conversations expressing alienation

    • 61% have documented cases of severe depression

6 importance of staff vigilance1
6. Importance of staff vigilance

  • Back-to-School teacher sessions

  • Newand substitute teachers

  • Involve custodians, support staff, cooks etc.

  • Critical times to be vigilant

    • Examples:

      • April 20: Hitler’s Birthday, National day to get high, Columbine Anniversary

      • Days preceding long breaks from school – Christmas, last day before summer break

    • First days of following a significant break – social media trash talking becomes actionable.

If detected take action
If detected, take action!

“I Will Never Know Why”

By Susan Klebold

Released on the 10th anniversary of Columbine

“I never heard from them”

7 importance of social media
7. Importance of social media

  • Students discuss everythingonline

  • School IT Departments should be equipped to track emails

  • Officers/Deputies should be online and inviting students to contact them if they need help

  • Officers/Deputies may want to have additional “fictional” accounts as needed

  • Off-campus behavior

    • Actionable if it was foreseeable the threat would find it way to campus and threaten the “safe and effective learning environment.

The school culture
The School Culture

Some characteristics of school culture that cause them to “not see” threats

  • Structural isolation – teachers are typically very isolated.

    • Para-professionals, cooks, maintenance talk mostly to each other – not to teachers or principals

  • Principals (administrators in general) natural tendency is to downplay or cover up difficulties/deficiencies.

    • Deficiencies may be seen as personal failures

The school culture1
The School Culture

School cultures are typically a partnership between teachers/principals and staff/parents.

  • While law enforcement communicates on a need-to-know basis, teachers are used to knowing all

  • The best approach is to build a partnership based on mutual respect

    • No Cowboys, please

  • Some of what emergency response entails goes against the qualities that drew them to this profession – caring and nurturing

Dakota territories sheriffs and deputies conference
Dakota Territories Sheriffs’ and Deputies Conference

Lowell Wolff, Wolff Consulting, LLC