COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The law enforcement agency in charge of protecting the President shared some of their expertise and insight with public safety and school officials in South Carolina.
The Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center has looked into 37 incidents of targeted violence in schools across the country starting with Columbine High School Shooting in 1999.
But last year’s school shootings in Florida and Texas really sparked a push to get this research and assessment model to as many school administrators as possible. Special Agent in Charge for the Secret Service in South Carolina, John Hirt said, “The Secret Service and the Department of Education realized that we need to double down and start getting more proactive with sharing this information with schools to make them safer and to utilize the knowledge.”
Lisa Ellis is a high school teacher and said this type of training and planning is crucial. South Carolina already has a Safe Schools Initiative. “Teachers are the frontlines for all of this,” Ellis said. “They are the ones in front of the students every day, listening to the conversations that are being had and often they are the ones preventing bigger issues from happening.”
According to a survey by the South Carolina Department of Education, nearly all teachers and students feel their school is safe.
Ellis said, “We have really taught our students and adults to be vigilant. If you don’t have an ID or recognize somebody in the building to not be afraid and ask and get them to the right place.”
The Secret Service’s Threat Assessment model is really focused on a proactive approach, like creating a safe school climate by letting students know it is okay to come forward if someone is making threats or bullying them. “More often than not we find out about things because we’ve built a relationship with a student and they’ll come and say, ‘hey this is going to happen and this is going on.’ And we’ll take it from there.”
Ellis said teachers and schools need to continue with this proactive approach. “You can stop school shootings by stopping students from feeling ostracized and alienated from the beginning.”