Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC) released an operational guide about preventing targeted school violence. Key among the findings shared in the “Enhancing School Safety Using a Threat Assessment Model” guide is the emphasis on the importance of schools creating a threat assessment process to proactively target violence prevention.
Created by the National Center for the Prevention of Community Violence (NCPCV), GreenZone is a tangible, measurable way to identify behavior, promote positive interactions, and create an overall violence-free and positive school climate. GreenZone helps students self-regulate their behaviors and then ProText My School technology provides a way for them to safely reach out for help—anonymously, if they choose—when they can’t or when they are concerned about others’ behaviors.
When information comes into ProText My School, it is evaluated and alerts are then sent to the school’s multidisciplinary response team, called a CARE Team — the Core Accountability Response and Evaluation Team. The program is designed to give school officials, and when necessary, law enforcement, unique, ground-level insight into what’s going on with their students both in and outside the classroom, as well as how they can help students communicate, share concerns, and encourage a violence-free environment.
The NTAC guide points out, “The goal of a threat assessment is to identify students of concern, assess their risk for engaging in violence or other harmful activities, and identify prevention strategies that help manage that risk.”
We see this as a call for the creation of CARE Teams in every school in the nation.
Further, the NTAC guide outlines eight key guidelines for creating a school’s comprehensive targeted violence prevention plan. Below is a summary of those guidelines and an outline of how NCPCV can help schools achieve them.
Establish a multidisciplinary threat assessment team
- NCPCV can help every school in the nation create multidisciplinary a CARE Team that utilizes both on-campus and community resources and expertise.
- A CARE Team is a school-based response team that deals with any crisis or critical information that can be part of harming a school’s overall climate and may have negative impacts on the school, students, and staff.
- Generally, a CARE Team consists of school administration, teachers, counselors, other key staff, and community resources like school resource officers. NCPCV’s best-practice recommendation is for each
- CARE Team to have at least one operational administrator, a lead counselor or school-based counselor, a lead teacher, and school resources officers.
- CARE Teams also work closely with other community resources for support, resources, and coordination as needed.
Define prohibited and concerning behaviors
- GreenZone, which is implemented and effectively working in schools throughout the nation, outlines three categories or “zones” of behavior (green, yellow, and red) ranging from acceptable to unacceptable, and encourages individuals of all ages to “stay in the GreenZone.”
- The zones provide an easy avenue to identify and discourage “yellow zone” and “red zone” behavior and promote kindness and civility overall.
- GreenZone is designed to be applied anywhere and everywhere. Every relationship and environment can benefit from encouraged kindness and civility.
Create a central reporting mechanism
- ProText My School, developed by TechVoice Inc. (Voice) is an intelligent, conversational “text-in, evaluate, and respond” system that allows students, parents, and staff to safely and anonymously report campus safety concerns directly to their school officials 24/7 via a school-specific phone number for text messaging and a single national web portal.
- ProText My School guides users through a gradual conversation via text message or the web, with the intent of getting as much information as possible from the tipster. The system then leverages Microsoft Cognitive Services and machine learning to evaluate all information in near real-time.
- The technology that powers ProText My School is the foundation for two other national reporting platforms that have already successfully been implemented and scaled nationally — Victim Link for sexual assault reporting, and Case Service for non-emergency police reports.
- This is how ProText My School works:
- Engages users in an automated conversation about what’s happening
- Provides immediate feedback, instructions, or further questions as needed
- Intelligent, conversational engine collects critical information
- Assesses real-time tips leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning
- Sends customized alerts to multidisciplinary CARE Teams based on specific criteria
- NCPCV and Voice are evaluating companies to become an exclusive program ProText My School sponsor and are also applying for grants to bring this program and technology to every certified K-12 school in the nation for free
Determine the threshold for law enforcement intervention
- Each school’s CARE Team establishes coordination between school officials, local law enforcement, and other community resources to respond appropriately to bullying and threats of campus violence based on NCPCV-supported crisis and critical incident response protocols
Establish assessment procedures
Each CARE team receives training, guidance, and best-practice support to:
- Identify the source and nature of a threat reported through ProText My School and other sources
- Identify specifics of a threat
- Identify how to properly investigate a threat
- Determine if a threat warrants a critical or crisis level response
- Document each threat
- Appropriately respond to each threat
- Develop and maintain a school crisis plan
- Participate in consistent staff development on school safety issues
Develop risk management options
- School safety assessments are part of NCPCV’s School Safety Center
NCPCV’s School Safety Assessments go beyond analyzing just locks and doors.
- NCPCV team members can do a thorough, on-site walkthrough of each school and its premises, including, but not limited to, the safe flow of traffic on campus, the flow and movement of students through entryways and exits, lighting, pathways, and safety reviews and inspections of all major common areas such as gyms, cafeterias, libraries, and other larger areas where students may assemble in groups.
- These on-site reviews lean on CPTED (Crime prevention through environmental design) strategies that deter violence by altering the physical design of spaces where people congregate. This includes ensuring school officials have a good line of sight into what’s happening on campus and eliminating potential problem areas.
Create and promote school climates
- When applied to an entire school district, GreenZone can follow students throughout their entire school careers from kindergarten through high school graduation. In schools where GreenZone has been implemented, officials report:
- Overall improvement in student behavior
- Fewer disciplinary issues for staff
- Decreased referrals to the office
- Fewer suspensions
- Conduct training for all stakeholders
- The following resources and training are available through NCPCV:
Staff training on GreenZone and how each program applies to a specific age group or grade level:
- Overview of administrators’ roles in GreenZone implementation and follow-through
- Student kick-off assembly
- Parent training
- Overview of teachers’ roles with classroom lessons, including:
- Recommended use and display of GreenZone materials
- How to explain the “zones” to students and encourage them to stay in the zone of civility
- Tools to empower students to self-regulate their own behaviors
- Coaching strategies to encourage students to “stay in the GreenZone”
- Additional staff development
- Grade-appropriate GreenZone materials
- Every school gets posters for classrooms and common rooms
- Every teacher gets a classroom poster
- Every student gets a GreenZone bookmark
- GreenZone pledges for all students
Ready to learn more about GreenZone and ProText My School and how we can help your school achieve these nationally recommended guidelines? Visit www.NCPCV.org and www.protextmyschool.org for more information.