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Dean of Students

Behavior assessments and increased support to prevent violence in schools

(Vivianne Velazquez/ Photographer) Bullying is common in schools, and programs are trying new methods to prevent it.

(Vivianne Velazquez/ Photographer)
Bullying is common in schools, and programs are trying new methods to prevent it.

The magnitude of school violence cannot be understated, but new behavioral assessments have been developed to prevent these tragedies from occurring.

The episodes of school violence are rarely sudden or impulsive, Marisa Randazzo, managing partner for Sigma Threat Management, said.

Randazzo spent 10 years with the U.S. Secret Service as the agency’s chief research psychologist and conducted numerous studies on this topic including “Threat Assessment in Schools: A Guide to Managing Threatening Situations and to Creating Safe School Climates.”

The emphases of Randazzo’s research are to assess threats and prevent attacks through the Behavioral Threat Assessment Summit which she taught at Heartland Community College on Nov. 6.

“People who engage in these types of school attacks usually let someone else know before their violent plans,” Randazzo said.

In addition, at least one adult was seriously concerned or alarmed by the youth’s behavior, Randazzo said.

In 75 percent of the cases at least three adults showed concern.

According to Randazzo, if a person feels concerned he or she should immediately address the issue to prevent further harm.

Mark Temple, associate professor in the Department of Health Sciences, discussed steps to take to help prevent these violent actions.

Prevention methods include increasing mental health screenings to spot health issues earlier, increasing access to mental health services and support in schools, immediately addressing mental health concerns and utilizing existing threat level assessments to create social norms.

“To create social norms means to alter the perception of things,” Temple said.

“If kids think it’s okay to bully, they are likely to bully, but if they think it’s not acceptable they won’t. So, we can find ways to normalize a behavior we want.”

A common catalyst or trigger to these types of violent behaviors is a loss of connection to the school, as well as a traumatic loss in one’s life, Randazzo said.

In this time of desperation, the person most likely has suicidal tendencies and access to weapons.

“School climate is very important,” Temple said. “It is important we have schools in place where we make certain everyone feels like they are connected and that they have a role in the school.”

If a person or a peer has thoughts of violent acts the best course of action is to contact university police.

Concurrently, the student behavioral assessment team on campus encourages people to report student behavior which seems out of character.

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