“The school is the community, and the community is the school. We’ve got to stop separating them for safety purposes.”
That was the message shared recently by Bobby Kipper, executive director for the National Center for the Prevention of Community Violence, as a guest on NPR’s Closer Look with Rose Scott in Atlanta.
Kipper was joined on the May 21 show by Jessi Heneghan, a child and adolescent psychotherapist at Atlanta Mindfulness Therapy, following another school shooting just days earlier at Sante Fe High School in Texas.
Kipper said often in these tragedies there are warning signs that are missed.
“It’s not just in the schools,” Kipper said. “We also have a community component that seems to be lacking where people see something, but they don’t say something… What happens in our communities absolutely goes into our schools, and that includes anger and aggression that these people are feeling against one another.”
NCPCV’s programs and training, like GreenZone, can be used both in schools and in the community. They are designed to identify behaviors, promote positive interactions, and create an overall positive environment and to disrupt the process of violence before it becomes an event.
This is where ProText My School technology steps in.
ProText My School gives students, parents, staff, and concerned citizens an anonymous way to get information about bullying and possible threats directly to their local school.
Unlike traditional text-to-tip technology, ProText My School engages users in an automated conversation about what’s happening. The system’s intelligent, conversational engine uses AI and machine learning to collect critical information via a school-specific number for text messaging or a national web platform. ProText My School evaluates the information, and then provides immediate feedback, instructions, or further questions as needed.
Once information comes into the system and is evaluated, it is sent to a designated multidisciplinary school response team, called a CARE (Core Accountability Response and Evaluation) Team. It is not meant to replace 911 for emergencies. Instead, it’s designed to give school officials more insight into what’s happening on campus so they can help students better communicate and promote a violence-free environment.
These CARE Teams, Kipper pointed out, are a vital part of helping students effectively manage their behaviors in and out of the classroom. And violence, he added, can happen anywhere.
“It’s an issue of effectively managing behavior,” Kipper said. “It can happen at any school. Urban, suburban, it doesn’t matter.”
NCPCV can help organize and train CARE Teams so they understand warning signs and instill teachers with the proper tools and observation tips to better understand what they are looking for.
“Kids will give off those signs,” Kipper said. “We have to do a better job of understanding this generation and their type of messaging,” which includes keeping a watchful eye on their social media networks and how they are engaging.
Kipper said schools must have a direct way to get this information, like through ProText My School tips, and then know where to go and how to deal with it. “So schools aren’t surprised about this information,” he said. “We need to do a better job as a society, picking up on this and investigating.”
Click here to listen to the full episode of Closer Look. The segment with Kipper begins around the 2:54 mark.