Addressing mental health needs is a key element of school safety, Martin says

WEAC President Ron Martin (right) joined Attorney General Josh Kaul (to his right) and other education and law enforcement officials this week in releasing a set of school safety and security policy documents. (Photo provided by the Attorney General’s Office.)

Attorney General Josh Kaul announced this week the release of the Wisconsin School Threat Assessment Protocol and Wisconsin Comprehensive School Security Framework, providing educators and partners a comprehensive set of policies that support school safety efforts.

WEAC President Ron Martin joined Kaul and law enforcement and education officials in announcing the framework at a news conference in the West Allis – West Milwaukee School District.

“The Wisconsin School Threat Assessment Protocol and Wisconsin Comprehensive School Security Framework will be incredibly beneficial for schools, and specifically for educators and administrators,” Martin said.

Martin said there is a need to focus on school safety as means of preventing incidents. 

“A significant part of prevention is recognizing and addressing the mental health needs of students and staff,” he said. “While we strengthen our response and recovery capabilities, we must also strengthen our capacity to identify and address mental health issues and create a positive and healthy learning environment for the entire school community.”

The Wisconsin School Threat Assessment Protocol provides schools access to a threat assessment process developed by subject matter experts from Wisconsin, and reviewed by the National Threat Assessment Center, a division of the United States Secret Service. School Threat Assessments can be applied as an early intervention tool to help identify students that may need additional resources or support, in order to prevent them from committing violence. The use of a school-based threat assessment and team is recommended by the U.S. Department of Education and United States Secret Service.

“Keeping our schools safe is a priority for the U.S. Secret Service.  We appreciate the opportunity to have worked with the Wisconsin Office of School Safety on this initiative, which will greatly enhance prevention efforts in the state,” said Dr. Lina Alathari, Chief of the National Threat Assessment Center at the U.S. Secret Service. “We remain committed to furthering this partnership, and we applaud the Wisconsin Department of Justice for recognizing the importance of threat assessment and early intervention.”

The Comprehensive School Security Framework provides a comprehensive set of policies, practices, and procedures to help guide local efforts to prevent, mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from violence. The framework provides best practices for preventing violence through climate and culture, student engagement, school policies, and physical structure. The framework also provides guidance on assessing potential violence indicators and diverting identified hazards before violence takes place. When violence occurs, the framework addresses how proper planning, preparation and training can minimize the severity of the incident and help the school recover more quickly.

“These resources provide critical policies and tools to keep our students, families and staff physically and psychologically safe,” said Trish Kilpin, a school social worker in Greendale. “These materials provide the framework to develop, improve, and implement best practices in threat assessment. Systems guidance is provided to increase the collective capacity of school and community members to recognize the risk factors and warning signs that indicate when further stabilization and support of an individual is necessary. These materials empower and support threat assessment teams to make decisions, mitigate threat, and take actions, and are in the best interest of our schools and community.”

Each of these guides were developed in partnership with educators, law enforcement, and mental health professionals, including the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association, Wisconsin School Psychologists Association, Wisconsin School Safety Coordinators Association, Wisconsin Safe and Health Schools Center, U.S. Secret Service, and many others.

“The Comprehensive School Security Framework and the School Threat Assessment Protocol each provide school districts throughout the state important tools in ensuring the safety of their students and staff,” said State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor. “The framework is an easy to use, proactive resource for districts developing a comprehensive school safety plan. Plans developed using this framework will be based on the most recently identified effective practices. The School Threat Assessment Protocol also provides a methodical approach for districts to use in evaluating and responding to potential threats making sure they are neither ignored nor handled in a one size fits all manner. When districts use this protocol, they will find they are not just identifying threatening behaviors but also the underlying causes of the behavior.”

The Office of School Safety is also holding a school threat assessment conference in Lake Geneva this week. More than 250 educators and law enforcement from around the state will receive training from state and national exerts on how to establish a comprehensive safety framework in schools. Topics at the conference include threat reporting, school-based threat assessments, and interviewing children with disabilities, information sharing, and training from the National Association of School Psychologists on the effects of trauma in a critical incident.

Learn more about the DOJ Office of School Safety here: 

https://www.doj.state.wi.us/office-school-safety/office-school-safety

Wisconsin School Threat Assessment Protocol

Wisconsin Comprehensive School Security FrameworkP