Protecting America’s Schools

Max Schachter works alongside the United States Secret Service as they launch their latest report on school violence: “Protecting America’s Schools: A US Secret Service Analysis of Targeted School Violence.” The 60-page report examines attacks that occurred in K-12 schools by current or former students and makes recommendations to schools on how to deal with potential threats.

School shootings can be prevented. Here’s how to save lives, Parkland dads say

Feb 18, 2020

Since November, three fathers who lost their children in the Parkland massacre have crossed the country with members of the United States Secret Service by their side.

The men and women in dark suits are not there for the parents’ protection, but to help them tout a 60-page report the federal agency released in November that the parents believe will help schools identify and stop the next school shooter

In the Secret Service’s Miami field office on Tuesday, Tony Montalto, Ryan Petty and Max Schachter praised the report, which examines 41 attacks that occurred in K-12 schools by current or former students and makes recommendations to schools on how to deal with potential threats.

“Embrace the findings and recommendations found in this report,” Petty said.

“It will save lives.”

There have been mountains of reports released since the February 2018 attack.

But the parents said this report was authored by an agency who has made a name identifying and stopping high-stakes threats — something that will hopefully make schools and law enforcement officials pay attention.

“Our nation must learn that the best way to stop the next school shooter is to proactively prevent them,” said Montalto.

Study’s findings

The report being shared by the Parkland parents was first started in the days after the shooting that stole the lives of their children two years ago. Among the many things it discovered were the similarities shared by students who commit acts of violence in school.

The report states that the majority of the 41 students they studied had a primary motive for their attack that was centered on retaliating for grievances such as being bullied or having recently been broken up with or ignored by a romantic interest.

Most of the attackers, the report said, attended school environments where their bullying went largely unnoticed.

In addition, almost all of the students exhibited traits of someone struggling with mental and behavioral health. Many of them also came from homes that were struggling with divorce, financial instability or parents and siblings who had been incarcerated.

According to the report, the average age of the attackers studied was 15 and the vast majority were male.

Montalto said the report makes clear that in addition to schools doing a better job of creating safety processes and threat assessments, schools also need to do a better job of helping the students they identify as being on the brink of violence.

“Let’s get them the help they need,” he said. “It’s not about being punitive. It’s not about profiling. It’s not about incarceration. It’s about assistance.”

Spreading the word

On Tuesday, Montalto and the other parents spoke at a news conference before their last scheduled stop on the mini-tour sharing highlights from the new report and helping to lead training on how to implement its findings. Already they have hit Washington D.C., Chicago and Los Angeles.
Montalto, whose 14-year-old daughter was killed two years ago in the Parkland shooting, said the team has trained 3,000 people so far and plan to train another 700 in Miami on Wednesday.

“Those people then go back to their districts and share the information they learn,” said Montalto, stressing that the purpose of their support for the report is to help get the word out.

Petty added that the upcoming training will also emphasize schools to use a newly created federal clearing house on school safety that is meant to serve as a one-stop shop for school districts to find ways to safeguard their schools.
Out of the many agencies that Parkland students and parents have partnered with over the two years since the attack, the Secret Service might not seem like an obvious choice.

However, Petty said that in the days after losing his own 14-year-old daughter during the shooting, he did his research online and found that the agency had a lauded threat assessment team that had been publishing insights on how to identify potential attackers in schools and other public places for decades.
Petty said that upon discovering the Secret Service’s various reports, he was dismayed to realize that many of the insights in them could have been used to save his daughter.

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