When it comes to school safety, their resources are limited, and instead of analyzing motives and methods of 750,000 or more incidents of school violence a year, the National Threat Assessment Center looks closer at the fewer than a dozen incidents of targeted school violence that occur every year.
Incidents such as the Valentines Day shooting in Parkland, Fla., or the end-of-school-year shooting in Santa Fe, Texas are what they try to understand.
“The smallest piece of the pie is where we put our focus,” she said.
Conversely, other participants at the meeting put more emphasis on the bigger picture.
Melanie Dallas from Highland Rivers Health, a behavioral health care provider; Joel Meyers from the Geogia State University Center for Research on School Safety, School Climate and Classroom Management; Justin Hill from the Department of Education, Layla I. Fitzgerald from the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities and Gail Smith, Georgia School Counselor Association Advocacy co-chair, discussed how state of mind plays a large part in one’s actions.
While there is no single profile on perpetrators of school violence, signs that a student may be headed in that direction include
- domestic violence at home,
- bullying at school or cyberbullying,
- violent entertainment, pornography, suicidal thoughts, and threats to others.
They said the only way to discover kids are going through some of those things is through interactions with trained adults: teachers, counselors, school police officers, school administrators, therapists and others.
“Children use behavior as the language of emotion,” said Fitzgerald.
Committee Chairman Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper, said he was pleased with the day’s presentations.
The committee is tasked with coming up with a proposal on best practices for school safety to present in the next legislative session. “I look at it like a see-saw,” he said. “We have to balance the prevention and the reaction.”
Jasperse said his takeaway so far is that there can’t be “silos” when it comes to the safety of our children.
“I can see already where different departments are starting to work together,” he said. “It’s a cause that nobody’s shying away from.”
Senate School Safety Study Committee
Much like the state House of Representatives, the state Senate also has a committee looking at school safety and security. Its next meeting is in the Albany area.
When: 10 a.m. Friday, Aug. 24
Where: Lee County High School, 1 Trojan Way, Leesburg