Center for Prevention and Study of Violence Report
SCHOOL SAFETY AND YOUTH IN CRISIS
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01:57 PM -- Center for Prevention and Study of Violence Report
Dale Elliott, representing the University of Colorado's Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence (CSPV), spoke about the opportunity to create the report, and described it as a gift to the state of Colorado. He spoke about his experience, and how the problems described in the report are widespread among American schools. He described his experience studying this issue, and spoke about what happened after the shooting at Columbine High School. He distributed a slide show to the committee (Attachment B). He said that recommendations made after the shooting at Columbine High School have never been addressed, and that the root causes of violence, primarily school climate, are not being well addressed. He said that 50 percent of middle schools nationally have a drug prevention program but only 1 in 4 of those programs is evidence-based. He spoke about the Scared Straight program and said that evaluations show it does more harm than good by increasing the probability of violence and criminal involvement. He described the 21st Century Learning Center, which has also been shown to be harmful. He spoke about the DARE program, which has also been shown not to work. He said schools should be diligent when selecting and implementing programs because there are programs that have been shown to work and that are hugely successful, but that those programs are not being implemented widely. He spoke about the need for school climate surveys so officials can identify students that are in need, schools with issues, and students with serious problems. He said that a positive school climate is the primary prevention strategy. He spoke about the need to end the code of silence within schools and about evidence-based bullying and drug prevention programs. He said that every student should have trusting relationship with at least one adult.
02:10 PM -- Bill Woodward, representing CSPV, spoke about process of researching and writing the report, and about the team's efforts to remain independent. He stated that the team had received no guidance or feedback from the Davis family or LPS. He described the recent rise in shootings, and the contributing factors to that rise. He described the need to address the root causes of youth violence and said that 20 to 25 percent of students report being bullied or being a bully. He said that 33 percent of high school students have been involved in a physical fight at school in the past year. He described the documents the team had consulted in researching and writing their report: 12 depositions, 58 exhibits, 4,215 pages of documents, and the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office (ACSO) report. Mr. Woodward said there were 27 decisions made or not made that were part of the process of failure leading up to the AHA shooting. He divided the team's findings into three areas: information sharing, threat assessment, and systems thinking.
02:15 PM -- Sarah Goodrum, representing CSPV, spoke about the lack of information sharing leading up to the AHS shooting. She said that a lot of information about Karl Pierson was available, but that it was scattered and there were missed opportunities to gather the information together. She spoke about the timeline of events (Attachment C). She discussed the CSPV team's first major finding: that there was a failure of information sharing at AHS and within LPS. She said that according to the Secret Service, information sharing is critical to the prevention of violence. Ms. Goodrum described how AHS staff failed to share information because of inconsistencies in the use of Infinite Campus, AHS' student data information system. She described restrictions to teachers' access to that system, and widespread misunderstandings of FERPA guidelines. Ms. Goodrum stated that at the time of the shooting, there was no formal policy of training students or staff about Safe2Tell, that there was no interagency information sharing agreement, and that those agreements, supported by state law and suggested by CSSRC, allow for agencies including social services, law enforcement, the criminal justice system, and schools to share information about an adolescent exhibiting concerning behavior.
02:19 PM -- Mr.Woodward spoke about LPS' threat assessment policy. He said there were many missed pieces of information that did not make their way into the threat assessment. He said that of 21 total risk factors, there were seven to nine that were not checked but that should have been checked. He stated that checking those risk factors would have raised Karl Pierson to a higher level of threat, and that if that had happened, perhaps management of Pierson's case would have been different. He described the FBI and Secret Service's threat assessment instructions, which include requirements that the process be investigative and inquisitive, and requires a skeptical mindset. Mr. Woodward said that threat assessment training in LPS consisted primarily of audio visual materials, independent reading, or lectures and that these are not training mechanisms that lend themselves to a high rate of information retention. He stated that the threat assessment process used in Colorado school districts should be validated, or proven to work. He described the threat assessment system used in Virginia (V-STAG), which has been proven and validated (Attachment D). Mr. Woodward spoke about the results of the system used in Virginia and the benefits of that system. He said that there are no research-based proven results for any threat assessment system in use in Colorado schools.
02:26 PM -- Ms. Goodrum spoke about systems thinking. She said that without better systems thinking, good threat assessment can do no good. She described the importance of acknowledging mistakes, and reflecting upon error. She said that the first symptom of a systemic problem relates to an organization's willingness to allow for imperfections. She said organizations must acknowledge imperfections in order to fix them and that the school culture at AHS did not allow for failure or reflection, and that it discouraged questioning. She stated that systems should adopt continuous improvement models of error review.
Mr. Woodward and Ms. Goodrum described the CSPV team's recommendations:
- Information sharing:
1. Use student information system, consistently use that system to document concerns relating to public safety. Should be shared with teachers, and teachers should share what they know
2. Promote Safe2Tell in formal trainings
3. Adopt interagency information sharing agreements
4. Install validated threat assessment process (V-STAG)
5. Install validated risk assessment process (SAVRY)
6. Use Secret Service's 6 principles and 11 questions
7. Cognitive behavioral training for assessors
8. Assign information vortex coordinator during threat assessment process, gatherer of all information relating to the assessed student
9. Authorize CSSRC to audit school or district requesting it to determine level of completeness/validity of threat assessment process
10. Threat assessment safety and support plan (IEPs and SITs as models)
11. Ensure that each threat assessed student has a trusted adult in the school
12. AG annually update CO School Violence Prevention and School Discipline Manual on both school safety and FERPA
13. Conduct school climate surveys of students/staff every 1-2 years, and use data to build a plan
14. Develop continuous improvement model of error review, to promote culture of safety
Mr. Woodward spoke about a grand program available to schools and districts that would implement these recommendations.
The presenters responded to questions from the committee.
The committee recessed.