Local educators discuss preventing violence on campuses

Jason Oliveira Image
Friday, March 4, 2022
Local educators discuss preventing violence on campuses
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Local educators joined law enforcement professionals for a special seminar on how to spot potential threats on campus and prevent a violent situation from happening.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- John Van Dreal has 35 years of experience working with troubled kids.

The retired psychologist now goes around the country consulting school districts and government agencies on how to evaluate threats on campus.

"It's a prevention system, it's an early intervention system and it's very pro-student," he said.

Members from every Fresno County school district were represented Thursday as Van Dreal discussed how educators and staff could recognize threatening behavior from a student and move quickly to de-escalate a situation.

Van Dreal developed his system to evaluate threats of school violence in the wake of the Columbine High School shooting.

"Prevention is the solution and inclusion is the solution," he said. "The closer we keep the kids we're most concerned with, the more protective factors and good things we put in their lives, the less they're likely to think solutions to their problems might be harmful to themselves or others."

A potential behavioral threat can range anywhere from an on-campus fight to someone bringing a weapon to school and even a social media post.

Administrators say assessment training like this is necessary to keep schools as safe as possible.

"An incident can happen on campus at any time, whether it's before school, after school, during class time," says Fresno County Deputy Superintendent Dr. Hank Gutierrez.

The key, according to Van Dreal, is identifying kids in crisis and getting them off the path of violence.

"Part of my message is to pump the brakes, look at what they're saying and also look at how they're behaving and see if the two things match," he said.

The same Behavioral Threat Assessment Training also took place in Tulare County recently. School campus leaders typically attend this training every two years.