Partnering with the Secret Service to Secure U.S. Schools

Secret Service and Dept. of Education 'Safe School Initiative' offers assessment methods for school security directors

"We are dedicated to making our campus as safe as possible," said Deloria. "We implemented the Targeted Threat Assessment Program in our school district and have executed program assessments of students on numerous occasions. Most of the time, after evaluating a potential threat, we concluded that the student did not pose an actual threat of violence. However on a couple of occasions, we believe that our interventions have prevented an incident from escalating to the point of possible violence. When our assessments resulted in a finding that a student is likely on a path to violence, we implemented a management plan to prevent the attack and protect the targets."

"Successful management of a threatening situation required substantial time and effort," continued Deloria, "but was better than having to manage the consequences of an incident. Management of these situations comprises three related functions:

  • Controlling/containing the situation and/or student in a way that will prevent the possibility of an attack;
  • Protecting and aiding possible targets; and
  • Providing support and guidance to help the student deal successfully with his/her problems."

Deloria has encouraged other school districts to look into the program, noting the no-cost approach and the program's ready availability to school districts in need.

"We cannot imagine a situation where a district would not implement this program," said Deloria. "We were able to do so without spending any capital funding and provided the necessary training during the course of normal in-service training for our teachers and staff. A district that has not implemented this program would be challenged to fairly represent to their communities that they are doing everything in their power to prevent these types of incidents from occurring."

In closing, the findings of the Safe School Initiative suggest that some future school attacks may be preventable. The fact that most attackers engaged in pre-incident planning behavior and shared their intentions and plans with others, suggests that those conducting threat assessment inquiries or investigations could uncover these types of information.

The threat assessment program is intended to assist school officials in implementing a process that will inform judgments and increase the likelihood that actions based on these judgments will prevent incidents of targeted violence in schools. Instead of basing judgments of risk on student traits or whether the student made specific threatening statements, the threat assessment process focuses on evaluating that student's behaviors and communications and determining whether those behaviors and communications suggest that the student has the intent and capacity to carry out a school attack.

Additional Resources:
For more information on the program and steps for implementation, please visit the web sites below.

About the author: Frank Pisciotta is president of Business Protection Specialists, an international security consulting firm headquartered in Canandaigua, N.Y. Business Protection Specialists Inc. has assisted its clients in preventing security incidents and crime since 1990. He was recently named by the IAPSC as its eighth CSC (Certified Security Consultant), and is a member of of the Institute of Internal Auditors. He is an ASIS member who achieved his CPP in 1994.