Policy Proposal for Buncombe County Schools in Response to Threats of Mass Violence

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Following the recent threat of mass violence in BCS, parents of threatened students were granted a meeting to discuss what happened after the threat, how it was handled, and the outcomes from the threat assessment. During that meeting, we were told the threat assessment included a four hour meeting where those involved "looked for darkness in [the accused's] soul," but that none of the people included in the meeting were licensed, professional psychologists with the expertise to analyze the accused's mindset and none of the individuals had any prior knowledge or relationship with the accused to speak either for or against him.

We, the parents of threatened students, are asking for changes to the procedures following a threat of mass violence to a school, including but not limited to requiring:
     -a psychological evaluation by a licensed professional with no connection to the student or the school
     -requests for background information and experiences from teachers and other employees who know the student, including case workers and counselors where applicable, as well as from systems in the community like employer, religious organizations, courts, and mental health providers

Not only would these requirements place a higher emphasis on student safety in our schools, but they would place BCS firmly at the forefront of student safety in our state, allowing us to be leaders for implementing research-based threat assessment strategies. In a document created during a combined effort from the United States Secret Service and the United States Department of Education titled “Threat Assessment in School: A Guide to Managing Threatening Situations and to Creating Safe School Climates,” the background information that should be gathered about the accused includes mental health and substance abuse history, history of relationships and conflicts, nature and quality of current relationships and personal support, current grievances or grudges, perceptions of being treated unfairly, coping strategies for stressful events, recent changes in behavior and attitude, and pending crises or changes in circumstances. The current threat assessment procedures are not comprehensive enough to cover information like this. A psychological evaluation can provide unbiased information about the accused’s mental wellbeing, while further research suggests that fact-based interviews of “students and adults who know the student who is the subject of the threat assessment inquiry...may indicate the student of concern’s ideas or intent.” Therefore, we are requesting that BCS add at least a psychological evaluation and background information from adults who know the accused to the threat assessment procedure. We believe it would create a more holistic and dynamic view of the situation that would offer more peace of mind to the stakeholders in situations like these.