MORRISTOWN, NJ - A group of 80 police officers, school administrators and resource officers as well as mental health professionals in Morris County listened to a nationally renowned expert speak on school shootings.
By terrible coincidence, former United States Secret Service Chief Research Psychologist Dr. Marisa R. Randazzo was training the group as.part of the Morris County Sheriff’s Office’s RSVP-3 Program when shots
were fired at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, California – allegedly by a 16-year-old student – killing two students and wounding at least three others.
RSVP-3, which stands for Responsible School Violence Prevention,Preparation, Protection, was launched in 2018 by Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon and the Morris County Chiefs of Police Association shortly after the February 14, 2018, school shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
The guide instructs professionals on how to identify, assess and manage threatening or seriously-disruptive behaviors in the school setting.
Dr. Randazzo, instructed the group how to conduct a threat investigation, divert an individual from his or her “pathway to violence,” and assist in creating school environments where students are free from bullying and feel comfortable confiding in school officials about threatening behavior exhibited by others. The group was also led through the BTAM process which involves identifying a subject whose behavior has caused concern, investigating and gathering relevant information about the subject in an ethical manner, assessing the situation based on the totality of the information, and managing the threat through intervention, supervision, or a monitoring plan designed to prevent further harm and mitigate the situation.
Dr. Randazzo said she believes many school shootings can be prevented, as did Sheriff Gannon, whose RSVP-3 program is multi- pronged to include the BTAM curriculum, an RSVP-3 anonymous tip- reporting app unveiled in October 2019, and tactical training for law enforcement officers. RSVP-3, he said, is enhanced by his creation of a threat and intelligence-gathering unit called Morris County Sheriff’s Trends and Analysis Team (MCSTAT).
“These incidences are highly preventable through a fairly simple process where you get people to share concerns – when they see that report on social media, when a teacher sees something in a homework
assignment that raises fear or concern about a student’s mental health or emotional well-being. Bring that information forth to a threat assessment team, have them take a look, find out what else is going
on,” Dr. Randazzo said. “If we think that student is on what we call a pathway to violence, we can do some simple things to get them off the pathway to violence and prevent harm."
Sheriff Gannon said the ultimate goals are to avoid tactical responses, and “be left of bang” by thwarting violent plans before they solidify.
Dr.Randazzo said many who commit acts of school violence are in despair and hope to die at a scene through “suicide by cop.”
Sheriff Gannon added that through early intervention, troubled youths can be steered to mental health professionals and hopefully, be returned to school.
“Our mission should be, with students especially, to return them to chemistry class. Return them to the football field. We’re not here to be punitive,” Sheriff Gannon said.
Dr. Randazzo emphasized the need for a multi-disciplinary approach to building a BTAM team so it includes an array of people bringing information and perspectives to an assessment. She also noted the importance of students – and other concerned parties – having a mechanism or trusted school personnel to whom they can report threats or disturbing behavior.
“It’s a way of making sure people know they have the power” to help control safety in their schools, she said.
Students, school staff and parents can use the free app to anonymously report threats to school safety and behavior that could disrupt classroom security, such as bullying, harassment, substance abuse or potential violence. To Download and use the app:
- Go to the Google Play store or Apple App Store on your mobile device.
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