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DA Provides New Resource to Help Prevent School Violence

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announced a new resource to help teachers spot red flags that could potentially lead to school violence, including school shootings. In partnership with the San Diego County Office of Education, the FBI and the San Diego Law Enforcement Coordination Center, the District Attorney’s Office produced a web and print-ready brochure that offers tips on what school employees should look for and what to do if they are concerned a student may be a danger to themselves or others.

“Preventing school shootings and keeping our kids and schools safe, often depends on teachers, staff, students and the community reporting concerning behavior to law enforcement,” DA Stephan said. “In San Diego County, we have a protocol that allows us to promptly respond to threats and neutralize them. This new brochure will provide school staff a quick guide on what to look for and how to report it.”

Tips in the brochure, called School Threats: A Resource for Teachers and Staff include how to observe, document and notify when a student may be emulating the behavior of previous school shooters. The resource offers information about what type of written material and social media posts are common among individuals who engage in mass violence.

“Ensuring the safety and well-being of students and staff members while on a school campus is integral to student success,” said San Diego County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Paul Gothold. “We are thankful to DA Stephan and the FBI for their continued collaboration on supports and interventions that reduce the threat of violence at our schools.”

Since 2018, the District Attorney’s Office has been working to stop those who might carry out threats before they can act, through the School Threats Protocol, which encompasses all 42 school districts in the County. The protocol guides how schools, law enforcement and prosecutors respond to school threats, using evidenced-based guidelines for investigation and resolution of the threat.

The most important revelation from our work in this area is the importance the public plays in warning law enforcement of threats that are made to do harm, no matter how insignificant they may seem.

Last year, the District Attorney’s Office reviewed 48 reports of school threats and filed criminal charges in 10 of those cases. So far this year, there have been 33 cases submitted for review with eight cases being charged. Even when the evidence does not support filing criminal charges, a variety of mental health and other supportive systems are engaged to enhance safety.

“FBI San Diego is committed to supporting our communities in the effort to prevent targeted violence in schools,” said Stacey Moy, Special Agent-in-Charge. “This reporting tool is an important part of our community effort to foster an educational environment wherein school faculty and staff recognize behaviors that are objectively concerning, understand how and where to report them, and feel confident that their reports will be taken seriously and followed up on. FBI is pleased to participate in this effort.”

When the District Attorney’s Office receives a school threats case for review, multiple factors are evaluated to confirm the credibility of a threat once the suspect has been identified, including:

  • Investigate their background, including whether the person made prior threats
  • Look at open-source intelligence such as social media posts
  • Check to see if they have registered guns, have made recent ammunition purchases, or have access to guns
  • Check on whether there has been contact with terrorist organizations
  • Determine whether they have had psychiatric holds or other mental health red flags
  • Research whether the person has had a recent traumatic event or grievance with a particular school or person associated with a school

“The San Diego Law Enforcement Coordination Center supports and prioritizes the whole community approach with our local enforcement, District Attorney investigators, the FBI and the Educational sector to prevent any school threat,” said Leslie Gardner, Director of the San Diego Law Enforcement Coordination Center. “We are committed to this ongoing effort and the School Safety Brochure is a valuable resource and guide for teachers and staff members to identify suspicious behavior and know how to report such information.”

Students can also interrupt school violence by reporting anonymously at StudentsSpeakingOut.org.