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St. Louis FBI officials encourage school districts to adopt Safe Schools Initiative

FBI officials say in four of five school shootings, at least one other person knew of the attacker’s plan but failed to report it.

ST. LOUIS — Now that a new school year is underway, active shooter intervention is a very real concern, once again. In fact, many administrators are taking action to intervene way before there is an act of violence.

Officials at the St. Louis branch of the Federal Bureau of Investigation are advocating for such intervention. The FBI program is called the Safe Schools Initiative. It gets involved at the school district level way before a gunman breaks into a classroom.

Instead, the program solicits the input of fellow students, parents, teachers, administrators, counselors and social workers–anyone who knows a student who is exhibiting potentially threatening behavior.

FBI officials say in four of five school shootings, at least one other person knew of the attacker’s plan but failed to report it. Almost all mass school shooters shared threatening or concerning messages or images in advance.

Dr. Greg Wagener, a student discipline coordinator within the Parkway School District, said Parkway adapted the Comprehensive School Threat Assessment guideline, which is a program authored by Dr. Dewey Cornell at the University of Virginia.

Wagener said Cornell is a forensic psychologist who has been looking at threat assessment and public safety for decades.

“What that does is–if a student makes a potential threat–instead of a reactive response of discipline, or consequences or suspension, we go into an investigative mode of involving administrators, counselors, social workers, law enforcement to really investigate the threat the student made," Wagener said. 

“A number of districts have started to lean in here across a variety of counties in and around St. Louis area. What we’re starting to see is schools recognized pulling together these cross-disciplinary teams that involve counseling resources, school administrators, resource officers, allows these children in distress to be addressed before law enforcement needs to intervene,” Jay Greenberg, FBI-St. Louis special agent in charge, said.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol operates Courage2Report, a 24/7 resource where you can report school safety concerns anonymously. Call 1-866-748-7047 or text “C2R” to 738477. You can also report concerning behavior at 1-800-CALL-FBI and fbi.gov.

FBI officials say a handful of states have legislative mandates requiring schools to create threat assessment teams. Missouri is not one of them.

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