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$2 million grant to be used to help rural Missouri schools detect possible threats

A photo of lockers.
A photo of lockers.


Researchers at the University of Missouri are using a $2 million grant from the Department of Justice to help identify and avert threats students or others may make on school grounds, according to a Monday press release.

The project -- which will partner with up to 26 rural school districts – is expected to be implemented by fall 2023 and connect to the schools’ Wi-Fi servers to monitor online activity for threatening language or images.

“If a potential threat is captured through videos, text messages, emails or social media posts, the school would be alerted so potential assessments and interventions can happen to avoid anyone harming themselves or others,” Keith Herman, the grant’s primary investigator, said in the press release. “The other key component of this is creating threat assessment teams, which could include school principals, teachers, school resource officers, school psychologists, counselors, social workers and law enforcement individuals, as we will be training them on how to respond and intervene.”

For threats involving suicide, an approach called the “Columbia Protocol” -- which has allegedly been used in schools for decades -- will provide a way for the threat assessment teams to talk with individuals to determine the level of risk and best practices to avoid self-harm.

For potential threats to harm others, an approach developed at the University of Virginia will be utilized. It involves the threat assessment team discussing how best to respond and including possible involvement from local law enforcement members.

“Rural schools tend to have less resources in these areas, and we have heard from many rural Missouri school districts that they currently don’t have these threat assessment teams and systematic procedures in place,” Herman said.

Threats have been several possible threats reported for multiple schools in Mid-Missouri in January, including at North Callaway, the California R-1 School District and Gentry Middle School.

Article Topic Follows: Education

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Ryan Shiner


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