LIMA — School shootings across the country the past few years have caused an increase in training to stop a shooter. What is lacking is training in how to keep a student from reaching the point that they become a school shooter.
However, 25 participants from Auglaize, Allen and Hardin Counties and state officials now know a lot more about preventative measures after a free course, called Behavioral Intervention Teams-Best Practices for K-12 Schools, at Rhodes State College on Thursday. The course was possible because of a grant from the Department of Justice, said Mike Webber, grant coordinator.
Webber said he and others saw the need for intervention training after the Dec. 14, 2012, shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, when many people began focusing on how to respond to an active shooter rather than identify trigger behaviors and prevent a shooter from getting to that point.
Rhodes has developed eight one-day courses for different levels of training. Webber hopes to fund several more classes before the grant expires in June.
Until now, all the courses were focused on higher education, said Rick Amweg, the executive director of the Center for P20 Safety and Security, who is on the ECAP grant advisory board with Webber. They were excited when they were given permission to use some of the money for K-12 school training.
“I think this is a great resource for schools,” Amweg said.
Ronald Ellis and his wife, Sandra Ellis, directors of the Illinois School and Campus Security Training Program, presented at the course.
There are common behaviors among active shooters that, if seen, can help prevent a person from making it to the point of becoming a shooter, Ronald Ellis said. A person begins the progression by seeing a real or perceived wrongdoing. The person then makes a plan and commits violence when there is a trigger. What Ronald Ellis hopes people will learn is how to identify a trigger and then defuse it.
A mistake commonly made is to remove a troubled person from school, rather than getting that person the help they need, according to Ronald Ellis, which can involve staying in school rather than leaving it. Kicking a student out does not solve the problem, he said.
“The threat assessment program is not profiling,” Sandra Ellis said, rather it is looking for changes in behavior. What is especially effective is having a multidisciplinary team working with a child so that they can see the student from all angles and help the student.
Evidence of a shooter’s plans can often be found on technology now. Educators should pay attention to the Internet and to phones, Sandra Ellis said. The information is there, it’s just scattered. In most cases the shooter did not make a direct threat to their target but the indications to their act could be found in things like their writing, their schoolwork or on social media.
Sandra Ellis said this information is critical for faculty and staff in schools and hopes that is will become mandatory.
Amweg and Webber have discussed expanding this to the state and, Amweg said, he hopes it can be used across the state but recognizes that what works here may not work in another area, although much of what was discussed on Thursday was general enough to be used in other areas.
“So much has gone into response of active shooter and other violent situations on campuses whether it was K-12 or high education. This is one of the programs that doesn’t focus so much on response but focuses on detection and prevention,” Amweg said.