School leaders in McLean County receive federal information on preventing school shootings

School administrators and resource officers met at Normal Community West High School as a part of a two-day conference for preventing mass school violence events. (WJBC File Photo)

By 25 News

BLOOMINGTON – Less than three months after the deadly school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, parents in Central Illinois are sending their kids off to start a new school year in Central Illinois.

As a result of that tragedy, keeping kids safe is a top priority.

“Our administrators, our behavioral health threat assessment teams are actively trying to identify those students who may pose a threat,” Regional Superintendent Mark Jontry said.”

School administrators and resource officers met at Normal Community West High School as a part of a two-day conference for preventing mass school violence events. Using data from the U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center, they’re learning how to identify, analyze and act on potential threats towards the school.

The NTAC has analyzed every mass school violence instance since Columbine. They also analyze every violent event that was stopped or caught before an attack could happen.

With over 20 years of research, they’ve found there’s no one-size-fits-all event for school violence. The stereotype of a quiet, loner person who comes out of the woodwork with a firearm doesn’t always bear out in the data they’ve analyzed.

“Students who are social outcasts and students who are at the center of the school’s social hierarchy…” Cotkins said. “There’s no one accurate or useful demographic profile of somebody who goes on to commit an act of targeted violence.”

Aaron Cotkin, PhD. is a social science research specialist for the Secret Service. He said they’ve seen all different types of perpetrators and types of violence. He said it’s not always a firearm that causes the most damage, citing an incident where an attacker stabbed over 20 students in a crowded hallway. No one died in that incident.

School administrators are relying on students, parents and the community to help them assess threats.

Locally, educators want to make sure they aren’t just stopping threats, but helping students who are in a violent or dangerous mindset. What they want to avoid is punishing students for dangerous behavior.

“It’s not to be a punitive measure,” Unit 5 Superintendent Kristin Weikle, PhD. said. “It’s to help and be a support or find a proper support for either that individual or their friends.”

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