AP NEWS

New Douglas County group seeks to prevent school violence

May 21, 2019

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Law enforcement, school district officials and mental health workers in the county home to Omaha have formed a threat assessment group that aims to connect at-risk children with services to prevent school violence.

The newly formed Douglas County Threat Advisory Team will allow community members to share strategies and programming to intervene before school threats turn into violent actions, the Omaha World-Herald reported.

Omaha Police Deputy Chief Greg Gonzalez said the area needed to organize to ensure all involved groups are communicating and no students or threats slip through the cracks.

The group will implement a hotline before next school year for community members to report threats. The team will discuss cases that are reported through the tip system.

Officials from the county’s seven public school districts will also be encouraged to bring cases to the group, as well as representatives from Omaha’s Catholic schools and Boys Town.

“It’s safe to say there’s probably quite a few threats that do not get reported because students are afraid that they’re not anonymous,” said Donald Morrison, the Omaha school district’s supervisor of school safety. “We want to meet people where they’re at. If we can get the information about a threat that is out there, then we certainly want that.”

Threat assessment groups have been developing nationwide, particularly after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead last year, said Dave Okada, a consultant who helped train the Douglas County group.

Some states have passed legislation mandating the groups, he said.

Sarpy County established a threat assessment group three years ago, as well as an anonymous tip line.

“I think it’s been very successful,” said Capt. Kevin Griger of the Sarpy County Sheriff’s Office. “Some individuals that were threatening suicide, we were able to intervene ahead of time. I can only assume it would have saved someone’s life.”

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com

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