ST. LOUIS – Shaun Swearengen is a St. Louis parent who has safety on his mind. He is the father of a 6-year-old and a 17-year-old student.
“I think about safety in the elementary school as well as the high school,” Swearengen said.
He’s excited about an FBI initiative that aims to prevent school tragedies before it’s too late. The School Safety Initiative is a proactive effort to create threat assessment teams comprised of school counselors, staff, and school resource officers.
The FBI shares research with schools to help identify any potential threat, with the idea of providing resources that could help.
“The real goal here is that each school can create a team that fits their student body, their staff, their capabilities, and they can create the safest possible environment for their students,” said Jay Greenberg, special agent in charge of the St. Louis FBI office.
Greenberg believes schools have a wealth of multidisciplinary experts, including SROs, faculty, staff, and counselors, capable of identifying problems before a student might turn violent.
“All of them together bring a huge number of skills to the table when it comes to identifying at-risk youth and providing them with different needs,” he said.
Research shows there are often warning signs from shooters before they turn violent, according to Greenberg.
“In almost every single incident of school violence, somebody connected to that student noticed something ahead of time,” he said.
In some cases, mental health resources could be needed. Counseling, food assistance, and family help are other possibilities.
“We want that district to have training in how to spot and assess at-risk children before they become violent,” Greenberg said.
He encourages any schools interested in learning more to contact the FBI. He also encourages the public to engage with their schools to learn more about their violence prevention programs.