Texas police collaborate with U.S. Secret Service on school safety measures training

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AUSTIN (Nexstar) — On a crisp Thursday morning, law enforcement officers from around Texas gathered in an Austin church to collaborate on school safety measures.

They came for a three-hour workshop conducted by the U.S. Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center, which in November published an analysis of of targeted school violence spanning a decade.

(Nexstar Graphic/Andy Davis. Data source: U.S. Secret Service)

According to the report, Texas has had two instances of targeted school violence from 2008 to 2017.

Nationwide, all but two of the attacks studied happened in public schools.

About three-quarters of the attacks were at high schools and nine were at middle schools.

Most of the attackers used firearms, including handguns, rifles and shotguns. The rest used knives.

In 27 of the 41 incidents studied, there was a school resource officer assigned to the school. If those SROs were on duty, they were able to respond within one minute. In one-third of the cases, it took law enforcement between one and five minutes to respond, and in about a quarter of the cases, first responders arrived between five and 10 minutes after the attack began.

Half of the attacks ended when suspects committed suicide, surrendered to school officials, dropped their weapons— waiting to be arrested — or left the scene. Only 6% ended with law enforcement intervention, including from school resource officers.

The report also indicated there is no single profile for a school shooter.

It stated the most common grievance among attackers was with other classmates, and most attackers has experienced psychological, behavioral, or developmental problems.

“When we’re looking at what is going on in these students’ background, it’s a lot of different components and themes that we talk about,” said Ashley Blair, a social science research specialist with the Secret Service National threat Assessment Center. “But the behaviors and communications they make prior to their attack provides those in the community a chance to intervene because it’s not something they’re keeping in secret.”

Austin Fire Department Assistant Chief Brandon Wade said first responders have a responsibility to learn best practices from other agencies and bring them back to their own communities.

“If we don’t spread the message to get it out to the people that are closest to these incidents, to these issues, then we’re not taking full advantage of the opportunity that we have,” he said.

Steve Hampton, Resident Agent in Charge of the Secret Service’s Austin office, placed importance on having multiple layers of planning in place to protect students and staff.

“There needs to be a program in place where they can take that actionable intelligence and then apply it and then keep a focus on those individuals to prevent an act of violence from happening in the future,” Hampton said.

At Memorial Early College High School in Comal ISD, administrators have already implemented many of those practices and continue to innovate in addition to installing physical security measures.

“We continuously practice drills,” principal Meredith Pappas said. “However, when we’re practicing them in particular this year, we have a lot of emphasis on the process. We’re very detailed in how we’re implementing them. We’re reflecting on them, making changes.”

Secret Service representatives said the National Threat Assessment Center has completed more than 500 trainings across the country to a total audience of more than 160,000 people.

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