NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) — School leaders teamed up with local and federal law enforcement with a goal of making school safer Thursday morning.
Superintendents, principals and resource officers rallied with the U.S. Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center to show how communities can identify, assess and intervene with students as early as possible.
Over 200 school leaders from Bloomington-Normal area schools gathered for the event Thursday. It was put on by the Regional Office of Education #17.
“Better identify potential threats among their student population; those students that may exhibit those characteristics that would make them a potential candidate to do harm,” said regional superintendent, Mark Jontry.
The National Threat Assessment Center has studied every school attack within the last 25 years. Jontry said the presentation incorporated incidents as old as Columbine and as recent as Marjorie Stoneman Douglas in 2018.
“Over that period of time, they’ve been able based on the information they’ve gathered; they’ve been able to identify common themes, common characteristics, and other things that our threat assessment teams should be looking for,” Jontry said.
The National Threat Assessment Center asserted that anyone can commit an act of violence against a school and that there’s no one stereotype.
“Individuals who are planning acts of violence against the school come in all ages, races, genders, and sexual orientations,” said social science research specialist Dr. Aaron Cotkin.
Cotkin said, focusing on stereotypes leads to school leaders and police overlooking concerning signs from potential offenders.
“Rather than profiling, we’re looking at the behaviors that they are engaging in and looking for students who need help and intervening to get them the help that they need,” Cotkin said.
Unit 5 superintendent Dr. Kristen Weikle said if community members, staff or students see or hear anything that seems suspicious or threatening to report it.
“We would much rather take the time to investigate a matter, provide the proper resources and supports for our students,” Weikle said.
It’s been less than three months since the Uvalde, Texas school shooting in May. While there’s a lot to be learned from that situation, it’s too soon for the secret service to incorporate it into their presentation.