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How Districts Can Combat Increasing School Threats

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Cindy Corey (00:00:01):

Hi everyone. Good afternoon. Thank you so much for joining us today. In partnership with Lightspeed Systems, we’re excited to bring you this conversation of how districts can combat increasing school threats. We’ve got a lot of great content, a great conversation. So we’re going to jump right into it. Couple housekeeping items. We will be recording the event, so you will receive a link to your email within 24 hours. You can also enter questions at any time. We’ll kind of get to those during the moderated discussion, if we can, or we’ll have a Q & A session at the end, if we don’t get to those questions. And then we are just to going to have few minutes to go over both the Raptor solution and Lightspeed Systems. So to get us going I want to introduce our fantastic panel.

Cindy Corey (00:00:52):

So we have Chief Frank Kitzerow, he’s the president of the national association of school and campus police chiefs. Chief Kitzerow is the former chief of police and school safety specialists for the Palm Beach County school district police department, and was responsible for the safety and security in the 10th largest district in the US. And that consists of 187 schools, almost 200,000 students and over 20,000 employees. Chief Kitzerow has more than 40 years of law enforcement experience, including 18 years as a successful police chief. Also joining our panel is Dr. Amy Grosso. She’s the director of behavioral health at Round Rock ISD in Texas. Dr. Grosso is the first director of behavioral health at Round Rock ISD. And in that role, she oversees programs for students who are in crisis or at risk due to depression, grief, suicidal ideation, anger, inadequate social skills, disruptive behavior, or any family problems. She is also the board chair for the central Texas chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. So we’re very thankful to have these two fantastic panelists for the conversation today. And also moderating is David Rogers, the chief marketing officer for Raptor Technologies. So with that, I’m going pass it to you, David.

David Rogers (00:02:17):

All right. Thank you, Cindy. So thank you everybody for joining us today. So just right off the bat, I mean Dr. Grosso, Chief Kitzerow, you know, we’ve seen a lot of interesting stuff that’s been going on this year and this school year. And actually Dr. Grosso, when we were talking the other day, we were saying, oh my gosh, you know, we got unprecedented numbers of students struggling with mental health issues and there’s been this, you know, dramatic rise in violent threats and disruptive behavior and social media threats. And, and you made a comment to me, it was like, well, everything wasn’t perfect before COVID came along. And I think a lot of people are trying to blame all this on COVID, but it maybe just really amplified it. And I guess I saw a staff the other day that said that we had more schools closed due to violent threats than we actually had back in December than we actually had due to COVID. It’s probably not sure right now with all the Omicron stuff that’s going on, but how are the different districts out there? You know, what are they putting in place? How are they addressing this? What’s working? How, how are they addressing this increase in violent threats and disruptions to the school day?

Dr. Amy Grosso (00:03:35):

Yeah. And I do want us to think back to where we were pre-COVID, because I think that’s our better comparison than trying to even compare it to last year. Till now, you know, when we were closed down, of course, we saw threats go down, because nobody was in our buildings or even when we had half as many students we didn’t see as many. And then you have to think that we have a lot of students that do get support while they’re in a school building: that teachers have eyes on them, that we’re able to see signs and symptoms of things going on, if they’re a threat to others or even a threat to themselves. And so with that not happening for a year or two years, for some of our students a lot of things went not addressed.

Dr. Amy Grosso (00:04:16):

You also have to look at what’s happening in society as a whole. Grownups are acting much better than children and students. And so a lot of times when we’re saying like the students behaviors are out of control and threats are an time high, we look at what the adults are doing across our nation, too. And we’re seeing that that’s mirrored. So they’re really taking a lot on of what adults are doing, too, but I think it’s something schools have been doing for a long time. It’s increasing how they support mental health students and how do they provide services and connect them to the community. And for me, that’s the biggest thing. First, the training, what education are we getting out to our staff, to our teachers so that they can look for those warning signs before it becomes a full blown crisis?

David Rogers (00:05:03):

Well, we’ve seen some really interesting incidents this year and some really dramatically violent incidents this year. Some of them have been brought on by some of these social media challenges. We’ve seen the TikTok challenge and other others like that. How are you guys dealing with those types of issues?

Dr. Amy Grosso (00:05:26):

In a variety of different ways, right? One of the biggest things that we’ve seen is how do we provide opportunities for students to be able to report what’s happening before it becomes a concern? So what kind of anonymous reporting systems do you have? What ways do you have to reach out and be able to say, hey, this is about to happen. Or my friends have been talking about this in a very anonymous way. I think for the most part, we’re really focusing on students that are causing a lot of destruction, but overall there’s a lot of students in our building that are wanting a safe and secure environment. So how do we help them be engaged so that they can be part of the solution since they’re not part of the problem?

David Rogers (00:06:07):

Yeah. You also mentioned something else. Dr. Grosso said that it’s, you know, the parents aren’t necessarily behaving themselves either. I’ve heard you talk about this in the past that, you know, you see something happening out in the community, it’s pretty much guaranteed. It’s going to wind up back in the school. How does that get reflected? Give me some examples of what you’ve seen in the past.

Chief Frank Kitzerow (00:06:33):

Yeah. So thank you, David. I appreciate the opportunity. So you know, it’s funny when you’ve been in the business, as long as I have, and being a police chief for 18 years when I was a municipal chief I could count on the fact that when schools let out for extended periods of time there were certain things that were going to happen in my community. My general nuisance calls were going to go up, you know, trespassing calls, perhaps petty thefts, you know, a number of different things, you know, all, you know, related to typical teenage behavior and those type of things. And so, you know, we instinctively knew that that was going to happen. What was interesting to me is when I became a school police chief and I was on the other side of the equation it became readily apparent to me that since schools are a microcosm of their communities, that in general, the things you have you see happening in your community are in all likelihood going to be coming into your schools in a very short period of time, you know, whether that be an uptick in, you know, gang violence, whether that, you know, is fights Whatever it is, you know, a number of things you’ll probably start seeing coming into your schools.

Chief Frank Kitzerow (00:07:49):

And I think, you know, the most progressive school districts you know, to me, what they’re doing that is really working is including key stakeholders, you know, having strong partnerships with their local police, parents. They’re paying attention to the events in the community. They’re anticipating what’s happening and what’s going to be happening. And they’re partnering with people like, you know, Dr. Grosso, who you know, who bring a whole new perspective to threat assessment and keeping our schools safe: two parts to safety, being safe and feeling safe. And you’ve got to accomplish both. And the reality is, you’ve heard me say a number of times, we’re never going to arrest our way out of this problem. We have to partner, we have to collaborate. And the more we do the things that we’re doing today, I think we’re going be down the road and helping to get us back to some type of normalcy.

Dr. Amy Grosso (00:08:49):

Oh, I say, I loved you talking about partnering with parents and especially like the TikTok challenges and stuff that we didn’t grow up with. Like a lot of us parents right now, we didn’t grow up with the technology our students have. So we don’t even even understand it. Right. Like, I know what TikTok is. Do I use it? <Laugh> You know, those kind of things. And so how do we help parents understand what’s out there and what their students are engaged in? And then how do we talk to students about being responsible with their online presence? I have found traditionally as adults, we just tell kids what not to do. Like, don’t do it, it’s bad for you. Don’t do it. And we know that that doesn’t work with students when you tell them not to do something. It usually doesn’t. It isn’t the approach that works. So how do we engage students in conversation on being responsible and their digital world as we, as the adults, are learning, too. And if you think about it, a lot of the adults that are on social media and different things, they’re not great examples either. So how do we really partner with parents as educators to help them know what to look out for and how to have those conversations?

Chief Frank Kitzerow (00:09:56):

Yeah, I think that’s a really good point, Dr. Grosso. Here’s the other thing that I would add into that is how many parents are willing to become involved in understanding what their students are doing? You know, it was interesting when we went into the whole business of COVID and we were doing distance learning, parents realized how difficult teaching is, number one. Number two, they realized, hey, maybe I’m not up to speed on all of this. And number three, some parents got particularly frustrated and just didn’t want to do it anymore, become involved or remain involved. So I think all the points that you made are important, I think to properly educate our parents, you know, it takes more than just one entity. The police can’t do it, the schools can’t do it, but it’s all of us working together, you know, and getting around the table and saying, what are the best practices and learning from each other as we go down the road to school safety.

Chief Frank Kitzerow (00:10:56):

And so I think all the points you bring up are very important. I think fundamentally what we have to do is we have to get parents to be willing to engage and move beyond the frustration level to say, okay, what can I really do? How can I help? What I am contributing does that matter? And the answer to that is yes. And it’s who we get to that point. Oh, look, a lot of school districts are making significant progress in that regard, including safety planning. Parents for the first time are being included in safety planning: the same with students. So I think we’re on the right track, but we have to pay attention to the points that you brought up. I think they’re really excellent.

David Rogers (00:11:37):

You know, touching back a little more on the social media stuff. It, you know, we had it in our area. We had parents afraid to send their kids to school, because their kids were telling them about the threats. We’ve had, I know in the Dallas area where we are, we had a couple of kids arrested—more than that. I think like three or four kids were arrested because they were passing along these threats. You know, do you think the threats are worse? Or do you think having kids go back, doing school from home is worse? What do you think has kind of been, you know, the overall emotional impact on these kids? What do you think has been the worst thing?

Dr. Amy Grosso (00:12:26):

You know, I, on that…

Chief Frank Kitzerow (00:12:27):

Perspective…

Dr. Amy Grosso (00:12:34):

Well, I think that in December, the US Surgeon General put out this report on mental health of students and where we are and that there’s a mental health crisis. It’s great, it’s a long report, but there’s a lot of things we can do. And you know, what really stuck out to me and for what schools can do, what parents can do is that, you know, students need a very safe predictable environment, right? They need to know for their mental wellbeing. It’s good to know what’s going to happen tomorrow. And if you think about what’s happened the last two years, a lot of the future’s not predictable, right? Everything’s been in in flux, everything has been, are we going to be in school? Are we not? And then I think that continues when threats happen. Then it snowballs, right? Like, oh my gosh, I heard this telephone game. And then, you know, a threat we got, it was actually something that happened in another school district. And somebody had, like, put on TikTok a picture that wasn’t even our school district. And so it snowballs because I think there is this common fear of unpredictability that’s happening in our society, which we know isn’t for anybody’s mental health.

Chief Frank Kitzerow (00:13:38):

Yeah. So following up on what Dr. Grosso had said, you know, I think one of the key components to this. You know, it’s hard to differentiate between what represents a crisis for a particular family or parent, you know, it, it might be COVID, it might be a number of things. I think fundamentally what really helps in that regard, though, is school districts have an obligation to be proactive in their communications. If I’m a parent at home and I’m trying to make the decision, is this really a threat? Because what we’re basically trying to get at here, you know, are people making threats or do they actually pose a threat? And so if I’m a parent and I’m trying to decide this, and I’m watching all this stuff happen on TikTok and well, where do I go?

Chief Frank Kitzerow (00:14:27):

I mean, how do I get the information to make an informed decision? And so I think fundamentally when school districts take the initiative to get out in front of a situation to provide information to parents, to give them a place where they can go to find out, to provide the kind of resources that, you know, Dr. Grosso was talking about a couple of minutes ago. You know, educating our parents: they’re the ones that are stuck in this arena of having to figure out what to do. And so if they’re constantly relying on social media, well, you know, not all of that is factual. And so where do you go? So I think that the communication piece is extremely important for districts to consider and become that resource for your parents and help them to make informed decisions. And then, regardless of what the challenge is, that’s coming your way. Parents have a resource that they can lean on.

Dr. Amy Grosso (00:15:28):

Go ahead. I say, I love you talking about that. I always say that the time to talk about a crisis isn’t the middle of a crisis. So our schools in our districts really need to be proactive to let parents know in a crisis situation. These are how we’re going to communicate with you. So it’s already known, and we’ve talked about it when emotions aren’t heightened. Cause when emotions are heightened, sometimes it’s like, can I really trust what they’re saying? But if we talk through during those non-crisis times, then I realize that there is a procedure, there’s way we handle things. It’s the same thing helping parents understand. What’s the difference between a lockout and a lockdown, right? Cause emotions are different for those two. And so that education piece, but not in a crisis, for our families to understand what communication will look like.

Chief Frank Kitzerow (00:16:18):

Yeah. Can I just give a shout out, David? I know you’re trying to move on to the next question, to the Palm Beach County School District because they do a remarkable job of communicating every single day districtwide and school by school when crisis occurs. They really do a great job. So kudos to those folks. I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least acknowledge that. Sorry, David, I’ll let you get on.

David Rogers (00:16:43):

No problem. Yeah. I was just going say, you know, y’all are, it’s interesting. Y’all have your sort of different sides of the same coin, I guess, but you’ve got you coming from the police work point of view, you’ve got Dr. Grosso who’s coming from behavioral side, but really it is the same side of the coin, right? Y’all work together closely to handle these threats and do the communication. And somebody was asking how you’re handling these charges with these students, but y’all work together on these things a lot of time. And I know y’all’s organizations were maybe structured a little differently at your different districts that y’all worked at, but how, how do y’all make that work? How do y’all get SROs and police and the folks on the behavioral side to be able to work together closely?

Chief Frank Kitzerow (00:17:33):

So I guess from a law enforcement perspective, I’ll jump in first. Partnership between folks like Dr. Grosso and law enforcement are absolutely critical. And I think the more we have to navigate, we’re forced to navigate through these challenges. The more we recognize the significance of these relationships. And so, in general, you know, we all want the same thing. I said a little while ago. You’re never going arrest your way out of a problem. You know, for the most part, these folks that are going to commit catastrophic events at schools work their way up what is called a pathway to violence. And everything starts in that process with a grievance. Now, the way somebody processes a grievance will help, you know, determine how far along they go to becoming, you know, a person who’s going to commit a catastrophic event.

Chief Frank Kitzerow (00:18:27):

But in general, fundamentally what I would say to you is as we work through these cases, and we did, we did this almost every day in Palm Beach County, is the police and the law enforcement folks take care of the law enforcement business. We do the investigations. We determine if there’s charges, we work with our state attorney and prosecutors’ office and our mental health partners really focus on the people and help us understand where they are, where this person might be in the pathway to violence. But more importantly, people like Dr. Grosso really play an important role of helping us to understand what their grievance is and possibly getting at that grievance. And if we can get at the grievance, then the catastrophic event may never occur and we save lives.

Dr. Amy Grosso (00:19:17):

I love how you talked about that. Like getting at what’s what’s underneath it. I always say that behavior for students and adults, it’s like an iceberg, right? We see the behavior, which is the tip of the iceberg. And we normally miss everything underneath the water. And I’m fortunate in Round Rock ISD. I’m actually housed within our police department. I report to our chief of police. We just started a new police department a year and a half ago. And so I oversee a team of social workers. We’re one sided, we’re each one side of the coin. And we work hand in hand every day, like you said, the officers handle the officer stuff. We don’t get in their lane because they know their lane, but then we know our lane and how do we go alongside each other with the common goal of helping students and keeping students safe from self and others.

Dr. Amy Grosso (00:20:09):

I became very interested in school safety a few years ago because I saw how much we were talking about outside threats to our students or students being threats to other students and realizing that our suicide rates in our country for our teens are the second leading cause of death. And I saw we weren’t talking about it as much. And for me, as a child, not feeling safe in their own body and being in and their own skin is just as much of a safety concern as someone else being a threat to them. Realizing that if we really look at the grievances and what’s going on for students and look for signs and symptoms early on, we help identify students who are a threat to themselves or others. We’re all working together. And I think for too long the two sides have almost been in competition with each other. Like I feel like society has put us in competition with each other like, well, this is just a police matter. Well, this is just this, and well you should just send a social worker and not the police when in reality it takes both of us working hand in hand to really get to the bottom of what’s happening with our students and being able to keep them safe.

Chief Frank Kitzerow (00:21:19):

You know, David, if I could add one more thing onto that, I think it’s really quite remarkable. Now I, I’ve never met Dr. Grosso in person. But I think it’s remarkable about how much our profession is changing and how the commitment to student and school safety is really starting to move forward. You know, here we are, we’re probably a thousand miles away from each other and fundamentally we’re speaking the same language and we understand each other’s perspectives. We also know that each perspective is different, but we understand each other’s perspectives. And that’s why I think combining the two really gives us greater opportunities to what I call work to the left of the X, X being a day a catastrophic event occurs, and being, you know, focused really heavily in the prevention, intervention, and diversion areas. And I just, you know, I just got to tell you, it’s just quite remarkable because I don’t think a few years ago we’d be having these kind of conversations and doing what we’re doing. And having, you know, two people in two separate professions, a thousand of miles apart speaking the same language, I think it’s really quite remarkable and it speaks volumes for our commitment to our children.

David Rogers (00:22:36):

Yeah. Well I, I would, I would ask, you know, things weren’t perfect before, but COVID certainly changed a lot of things. How’s it changed the relationship, you know? You’re kind of talking about this a little bit, the relationship between the departments and how has it changed the relationship with SROs and students and or mental health professionals and students. I mean what kind of changes have y’all noted? As you know, COVID has sort of really continued to keep kids either out of school or have some of these problems that they were already having before?

Dr. Amy Grosso (00:23:13):

I have known, because I’ve been in this field for a long time, that mental health has been a concern for students for decades. Like I mentioned, suicide is the second leading cause of death for teens, and that’s been for 10 years. And I think a lot of times when I would talk to students pre-COVID, they say, please help my parents understand that this is real, that I really am struggling, that I am depressed or anxious. And I think what COVID did is really shine a spotlight on the mental health crisis that our whole country has been in, but specifically students have been in. And so I think holistically there’s not as much of a stigma attached to it. So I think everybody’s more willing to talk about it, and we’ve all gone through this collective experience that has been very hard. So we all are willing to talk about mental health and you know, we’re willing to talk about it in all different circles. And now it’s acceptable to talk about it or maybe before there were barriers against us being open. I think that’s even helped different aspects and different people that are helping our students really start to look at mental health.

Chief Frank Kitzerow (00:24:21):

Yeah. I would agree with that, you know. I think being away from schools for an extended period of time has really reinforced with our students, our parents, and our community, the value that our schools bring to not only, you know, helping our students be successful, but to helping them thrive and the significant role that mental health plays in that whole environment. Many of us, we’ve probably forgotten what it’s like to be a teenager, a young kid, but it’s hard work and there’s a lot that goes into that. And, you know, it’s forced us to take a critical look. I think also about the way we perform law enforcement functions in the school, and, you know I use it as an example sometime: you know the fact that policing in a school and keeping our students safe is way different than traditional law enforcement.

Chief Frank Kitzerow (00:25:20):

I mean, it’s so different, you know, and I use a small example. You probably heard me talk about it before, David, if something happened in a classroom where law enforcement had to become involved. If it was a disruptive student in a traditional setting, you know, traditional law enforcement officers would go into a classroom and they’d go right to whatever student’s causing the disruption, try to remove that student from the environment. And probably in most cases they probably wouldn’t want to go voluntarily. And then the next thing, you know, the situation escalates, and then we’re now facing criminal charges and all kinds of things. You know, in this environment now, especially after working with our mental health workers, it’s different: we go into a classroom now and if we have a student disruptive, in most cases, we’re going remove everyone, all the audience and the teacher and then get to this child that’s having the problem.

Chief Frank Kitzerow (00:26:13):

And you look at who may be, you know, six foot two and look like an adult. But you know, the lesson that we learn is their frontal lobes are not fully developed. And so now we get to a point where we’ve got all the audience out of there, all the stimulus, and we turn to that child and we go, you know, why are we here today? What’s causing the problem. And if you can get to the point, and they do most of the time in most cases, what school-based police officers will tell you is the student will start crying. And then you’re going to get to, I haven’t eaten in a few days you know, I’m thrown out of my home. I’m having family problems. I was, you know, whatever it is. And there we go. Now we have the underlying cause identified. And now we partner with our mental health workers to get to the bottom of that. It’s a whole different approach. And the takeaway for that child is that there isn’t a long-term criminal record, and they’re given the opportunities to succeed and thrive in life. And I think that’s part of the difference.

David Rogers (00:27:13):

There’s a question that popped up that I think kind of aligns with that. And it, and I think both of y’all could answer this. Schools have wellness centers, they have, you know, access to mental health services, but it’s, as in adult life, it’s often the people who need the help the most that don’t seek it out. Right. And so you know, how, how are counselors and mental health professionals and SROs, how are y’all working together to identify that kid who’s having the issues before it gets to the point that they’re being disruptive? I mean, are there policies or things you’re putting in place and by the way, Dr. Gross? So there’s a lot of folks who want to see what policies are, to follow the model that y’all are doing there in Round Rock, by embedding you within the police police department. But how would y’all address, you know, getting those kids that needed help the most into those types of services?

Dr. Amy Grosso (00:28:10):

This has been a passion area of mine since my first internship years ago and when I was an outsourced counselor to a charter school. And in every referral I got at the first were all these little boys who had didn’t know how to behave in class. Like they were labeled as a disruptive and they were elementary kids. They don’t know how to behave in class. And it became evident very quickly. They didn’t know how to behave. They had experienced intense trauma, grief, lots of huge things at such a young age, but yet the stereotypes in our society of how boys can respond and how girls can respond with emotion still exist, right? For girls it’s acceptable for them to cry. Those kind of things. Boys often get the message of suck it up. You know, you, you can’t cry, but you’re allowed to be angry.

Dr. Amy Grosso (00:29:04):

And so the only emotion they had to show was anger. Traditionally in our society and in our schools, a boy acts up in anger. Or even if a girl does they go on a discipline track. So it’s not seen that there’s something underlying the behavior. And so we don’t identify it. They end up on a discipline track that can end up on a criminal track. Once they get into high school, never getting the support they need for trauma, underlying mental health is an issue. And so I think a big thing here is trying to help educate staff principals of the disruptive students. It doesn’t mean you give them a free pass, but how do you provide support to what’s underneath? Like, what is underneath that behavior and what caused it? Is it hunger or is it some trauma that they experienced? And so I think the stigma that’s often been for our boys about expressing emotion gets them that disruptive behavior. And we just have to start looking at it different, and see that it’s serving a purpose. And a lot of times it’s just them not knowing what else to do.

David Rogers (00:30:10):

Well, that’s probably a good segue to our next topic, which is, you know, there are, there are tools out there and strategies out there to help, you know, make this easier. Right. And you kind of started to address, you know, how do we educate our staff? You know, how do we track some of this stuff? What are the tools that y’all have used in y’all’s districts? We’ll start with you, Dr. Grosso, to be able to, you know, either educate identify a track or, in the case of some sort type of event, make sure that everybody’s aware.

Dr. Amy Grosso (00:30:48):

Yeah. Some of it, I think, just happened naturally since we’re in the same department, behavioral health and the officers. So there’s been times where situations that have happened and there’ll be a staffing with the officers, but then they include me for that behavioral health perspective. So if something happened with a student, from my lens or a social worker’s lens, did they get to know the family and what are those underlying conditions that maybe at first aren’t seen? So then we can make sure we then provide the services for students. And ours is we started saying this: assess before you arrest, right. Especially within a school. So assess everything that’s happening and what does the student really need to make a change in the behavior that they’re having? And is it putting them in a criminal justice system or is it actually getting them the support, the mental health supports they need. And police always talk about a lot of times in traditional police forces and in communities and stuff. We’re very stat driven, you know, and so our stats are looking at it how many can we divert from the criminal justice system. How many can we help find mental health support? How many can we help find a different way of being so that they don’t continue down that path?

Chief Frank Kitzerow (00:32:07):

Chief, I’m really glad to hear you say that. Dr. Grosso, your police chief sounds very progressive, which is great. And I would imagine you guys make a really good team. You know, if I could just add a couple things onto what Dr Grosso was talking about. I think if you’re willing to work within a school system, whether you’re in law enforcement, mental health teacher, support services, whatever it is, your real mission is the children. It’s really all about the children. That’s really what it is. And so, as I said earlier, two parts to safety, being safe and feeling safe. So you want to provide both because, you know, when you provide both, it’s not only to educate our children, it’s to give them an opportunity to thrive. And, you know, this is our future.

Chief Frank Kitzerow (00:32:55):

At some point in time, we’re going to turn over to the children that are in our schools. And so it’s an investment in our future. You know, I think we all want the same environment. And I think what has to happen is that we continue going down the path that we’re going now to where we’re learning to speak the same language, which to me is fundamental. You know, when I first came into school-based policing, I would try to express an idea about things. And, you know, my sense was talking to educators sometimes can be a little challenging from a law enforcement perspective. So I put together a principals’ advisory group, and I had high school and elementary school principals that I met with regularly as the police chief.

Chief Frank Kitzerow (00:33:43):

And, in essence, they were teaching me how to speak principal, and I was teaching them how to speak police. And I was so proud of that relationship because together we were able to move things forward, and it’s give and take. And so one of the things that works really well is for our police officers that work on campuses to understand that our principals are the mayor of their cities. And so, you know, at times you’re going to lean on me, I’m there for you, lean on me. But you know, we’re not, it’s hard for the police to sometimes say, well, we’re not always in charge, because we like that. We think we’re always in charge. And so you have those kind of things, but you know a mental health person told me a long time ago—he goes in line to what Dr. Gross was talking about—they said we are only as good as we are. Well, you know, so we’ve got to get there as a system, as a school district, as a society. And I really applaud people like your police chief willing to get in the arena.

David Rogers (00:34:53):

So there’s a lot of questions that have popped up as we’ve been going along. These are some touchy subjects, right? Around how do we physically, you know, what are the policies for physically handling kids and, you know, should we or should we not have armed SROs? And you know, where is that handoff between, you know, mental health and the police? If I had to sum that up, it’s really what kind of policies and procedures are y’all putting in place to do exactly what you’re talking about, chief, to make sure that you’re putting the kid first, right? That you’re, you know, that the SROs are seen as an ally, not an enemy. That the mental health professional has the opportunity to get in there before it goes down that wrong track. What are the types of policies and procedures, Dr. Grosso? You’re right there in the middle of all this every day. What are y’all doing to kind of address those things, to make sure there’s good, clean handoff? That everybody understands this is how we’re going to handle the kids.

Dr. Amy Grosso (00:35:59):

I would say that the first thing has to be the relationship building. And whether it’s like in our department where we’re together, or if you’re not in the same department, but what relationship do you have for the mental health person and the officer? And that doesn’t mean I just met you once. It means we’ve had dialogue, we’ve talked through previous things that have happened, and how did we want to handle it differently? And it’s really hard for me to say, well, in this situation, it would go to the mental health person. And then this one officer, I always think it looks like it’s a dance. And unless your people really are used to working together and knowing each other’s roles and not just knowing the role, but valuing the role. Like I think in schools too, you know, as chief was talking about, it’s a different type of policing.

Dr. Amy Grosso (00:36:46):

It is. And our chief always talks about one of the advantages in school policing is we have more time, right? It’s not like I have to get back on the street. And it’s a situation we had where someone was threatening to harm others and themselves, and was running out of the building. And it took two or three hours to really get the student calm. I mean, everybody was safe, but it our social worker being there, but also allowing the police to do their job. But then the social worker working with staff and with parents that are there, and the parents to provide services that are going to come later. And so I think it is this dance that doesn’t happen just because it’s written in a policy or it’s written on paper. It’s the day to day interactions and relationship building that has to happen between the two or it’s not going to work.

David Rogers (00:37:36):

So somebody asked the question: when it comes to assessing a student for self-harm or if they’re having issues, but they might have been a model citizen before, what are you doing to help collect that information to identify that early? And of course, I’m from Raptor, I’m going to say, hey, we’re working on a product for that. But maybe that’s a good lead in to another question, which is what technology and data sources are you using today, or would look forward to using in the future, to be able to help make the communication between the two sides better, but also get that intervention in earlier. Dr. Grosso, I’ll let you start.

Dr. Amy Grosso (00:38:23):

Finish, there’s lots of different products out there, right, that do similar things. Since you were talking about that, Raptor is starting to look into monitoring students through their district email address and stuff. They’re online activities. Are they writing about things? You know, we’ve had students that have been identified because they’ve been writing a suicide note or about hurting others, and that gets identified, but then making sure how is that handled once we’ve been alerted that a student’s writing about this, who’s the best person to talk to them. And this is where, you know, the officer and counselor really have to work together. Because most of the time it is that mental health professional who has that first discussion, especially if it’s about self-harm and not harm to others. So that trained person of has those conversations and then determines what steps need to be taken next to get the student the support that they need. And I always say the technology’s great, but without the training of what to do next, it’s just another piece of technology we have. And so really that training aspect of how do we handle things when something comes up and how do we alert parents. And then how do we provide wraparound services to ensure it’s not just stop writing about this, but more we’re really concerned about you, you must be struggling.

David Rogers (00:39:44):

Chief. What type of things have y’all put in place?

Chief Frank Kitzerow (00:39:49):

So there are a couple of things and I agree a hundred percent with what Dr. Grosso said, in terms of you can’t let technology drive a process, you have to have good strong processes. And the technology supports those process, you know, in the school safety ecosystem. For example, we talk about working to the left of the X and the arenas of prevention, intervention, and diversion, but it’s also really important if you’re not successful in that arena to have a really robust toolbox that you can open and get at whatever the catastrophic event is. For an example, if it’s an active shooter, time is not your friend and time is working against you.

Chief Frank Kitzerow (00:40:44):

So if you have to open that toolbox, you want to make sure you’re doing things relating to safety, security unified command, reunification training, you know, the technology pieces, policies, you know, accountability. There’s so many parts to this thing. So, you know, let’s take two key components, for example, working to the left of the X in the prevention, intervention, and diversion. Fundamentally, it’s important to know a few things about who’s coming on your campus. Okay, you know, making sure that people coming on your campus are not making a threat or don’t pose a threat. And then the second thing is being able to navigate through the volumes of threats working to the left of the X and getting yourself to a point through your partnership with mental health and through your software to know who’s making a threat and who poses a threat.

Chief Frank Kitzerow (00:41:38):

And then once you get to that point, by the way, if you’ve got somebody that rises to that level, it’s not like a traditional police report where you just take a report and then you move on to something else. This person stays on your radar for a period of time because you may have resolved whatever the issue is today, but that doesn’t mean they’re not coming back tomorrow. And so that’s why those relationships are so important. And then working on the back end, you know, in this whole merge management piece, I’ll tell you what kept me awake at night is the catastrophic event. And you know, if you get a high school with 3,000 kids in it, which is not uncommon, and every one of those students had one parent and most of them have two, that’s 9,000 people plus staff in a crisis. That’s 10,000 people in the crisis.

Chief Frank Kitzerow (00:42:32):

And after you, you navigated through and isolated, eliminated, and neutralized a threat, how do you link all those people together? And it’s one of the few things in life you’re ever going to have to do where you have to be a hundred percent, a hundred percent of the time—you can’t be victimized by things like human trafficking, parental abduction, you know, child abductions. And so your software will help you with your process, but you’ve got train your staff. You got to work with your key stakeholders. And the last thing I’ll say about it is, you know, if you’ve heard me say this, David. We have school safety, like education works in one arena, and then local law enforcement works in another. We really don’t collaborate ahead of time. And when a catastrophic event occurs, we’re all forced to work together and I’m doing what I think is best. You think what you’re doing is best when the reality is, if we probably had collaborated ahead of time, we would’ve been in a lot better shape.

David Rogers (00:43:40):

Well, obviously shameless plug, but Lightspeed and Raptor offer some really good technologies. I think they have helped assist both of your districts in concrete ways. There was a really good question. I’m going to throw it out there. Chief, I think I’ve heard you talk about something. Dr. Grosso, we have not talked through this at all, but one’s talking about if you’re doing anything with peers? So if there’s a kid going off the rails, I’ve heard of like, you know, kid courts and things like that. Do y’all do anything to bring their peers into the process as well, to kind of help get kids back on the right path?

Dr. Amy Grosso (00:44:23):

I would say there’s a lot of peer to peer programs out there for suicide prevention and things like that. And I think it’s knowing when to use a peer and when not to, and when not to make a peer feel responsible for things adults should feel responsible for. I think it’s always the responsibility to look out for signs or symptom, symptoms, and report things, but it’s not your job to fix it. And so I think peer to peer is really crucial. It’s important students listen to their peers, but where do we take the burden off of them so that they don’t feel like they have to be in charge of fixing anything, especially with a mental health concern or if a student’s thinking of harming others, for students to know that there’s others to help them through that. And so I think they’re fantastic if done and incorporated correctly.

Chief Frank Kitzerow (00:45:19):

And I think that’s really a great point. So in the Palm Beach County School District some of our schools were very successful. And to the extent that, you know, we not only had students that needed help, we had students that went on it to provide help. They weren’t sure how to help their fellow students. So some of our schools formalized that program a little bit through what they called an ambassador program, where students were, you know, educated on how to help. Like Dr. Grosso said, it’s not your job to resolve the problem. But you know if other students have someone they can go to that, they know is an ambassador, it gives them a resource. And it’s especially important now from our perspective because the potential suicide rates and threats of suicide are skyrocketing for our youth.

Chief Frank Kitzerow (00:46:16):

And so I think you’ve got to come up with something along the way. To me, that ambassador program was a great fix because you had both sides of the coin, you had those that needed help, and those that really wanted to help their fellow students. And I could tell you, social media has played an important role in that, too. It’s amazing to me, through the tip lines that we use in Palm Beach County, how many students will come forward and say, hey, I think you need to talk to this student because, you know, they’re not doing well. And the school police department in Palm Beach County School District, we would actually do wellness checks for some of our students that we haven’t seen or heard from in a while.

Chief Frank Kitzerow (00:47:02):

And it helps build bridges. And then finally, on the last part of that, too, we talk about the importance of providing opportunities for students to be successful. We work very closely on the criminal side with our state attorney’s office. And we have a youth court program where, depending on the violation, you’re going to go through a court system, but it’s going to be a court of your peers. You know, it’s going to be run through the school district but coordinated with the state attorney’s office. You have a real judge there, you may get community service, and if you complete the community service hours, you’re good to go. If you don’t, well, then you’re going to be referred back into the criminal justice system. And I’ll tell you the recidivism rate on that is just really remarkable. I mean, I’ve heard that it’s been as low as 5.5% to like 9%. When you think about that, that means over 90% of the students that were running through never reoffend. I lost track of the grades, Dr. Grosso, but I think 90 to 95% is at least a high B+ or an A, I would think.

Dr. Amy Grosso (00:48:17):

It would be an A. If you think about it, that’s 90% of students. I see that as at least 90% of students got the help that they needed. Right. Reducing recidivism is about people getting what they need. And so that’s phenomenal that 90% of students were getting their needs met.

David Rogers (00:48:37):

Yeah.

Chief Frank Kitzerow (00:48:38):

Well, I think that’s how you win. That’s how you could put yourself on a road to win. You know, I come back to what I said in the beginning: you’re never going to arrest your way out of problem. And as tempting as it is to say, everybody’s threatening schools and, you know, we’ve got to start locking people up. Yes, I get it. If it, you know, escalates to that point, I’m not saying it’ll be easy. What I’m saying is be strategic. And think about the long term consequences in building our future.

David Rogers (00:49:08):

Well, I think we could probably keep talking for another couple of hours, because this is all fascinating. We’re getting some great questions in here and we’ll try to roll back afterwards. But you know, maybe, maybe one last question. When you’re dealing with parents: we talked earlier about how sometimes this is stemming from what they’re seeing at home. And really probably this is more directed at Dr. Grosso. Do y’all have anything in place to get help? Parents who might have mental health needs or does that get addressed at all?

Dr. Amy Grosso (00:49:45):

Absolutely. I think parental education is probably the biggest thing around mental health that’s needed. Right? Because we can say a kid’s struggling at school and stuff, but unless the parents understand that and the parents are on board and legitimate, it doesn’t work. COVID provided a wonderful opportunity here in Round Rock because we were locked down. It’s like, okay, we’ve got to get this information to parents because they might be seeing mental health concerns. So I partnered with our PTA and started doing like short 15-minute video sessions on different things regarding mental health and really telling parents: if we’re talking about anxiety, you might realize you’re the one with anxiety, not your student. And what does that mean for you to get help? And so we were, we did those through Facebook Live. Because I would do presentations in person before COVID and you know, very few people wanted come to a presentation about my child might have depression. But when they’re online and you can watch anonymously and you can go back—our watch rates were so high because parents then were anonymous watching.

Dr. Amy Grosso (00:50:48):

They could get the information they needed. It was short and then it was tangible things they could do either for themselves or for the students. So we’ve done that. And also a lot of information on websites for parents. I always say, if you Google anxiety, it’s going to produce a lot of anxiety because of what you get. And so really providing good concrete information for families about what to do, where to go for more information and where to get help, not just for students, but for themselves, too.

David Rogers (00:51:16):

That’s great. Well, I I think we need to get to the commercial. So I am going to kick that over to Cindy to talk a little bit about Raptor and speed,

Speaker 1 (00:51:29):

Right? Thank you. A little bit about Raptor. We were founded 20 years ago with the mission to protect every child, every school, every day. We provide an ecosystem of software and technologies that work seamlessly together to help schools manage all these different aspects of safety. So we do work with over 5,000 schools districts across the country. And you know, we work with the largest districts like Palm Beach County to single school districts and, and every size school in between. And so a couple kind of brief points about the school safety suite. Again, it is fully integrated and it does sync with your student information system to ensure that you remain in complete control and have line of sight to everyone and every incident in your school. So we do have the Raptor visitor and volunteer management.

Speaker 1 (00:52:27):

And this ensures that, you know, every visitor and volunteer is screened and you know exactly who’s on your campus. And then Raptor emergency management includes the tools you need to practice drills, respond to emergencies, and localize incidents quickly from anywhere you are on campus. Manage complex evacuation and reunification processes like chief ER was talking about, connect with first responders to improve your incident response time, and ultimately protect the lives of those on campus. So that’s just a very, very quick overview there of Raptor and just a little bit similar information here about Lightspeed. Lightspeed’s mission is to advance online learning, safety, and effectiveness. So they do maintain a 95% customer satisfaction rate and they work with over 28,000 schools across the country. And so they have an integrated solution suite as well.

Speaker 1 (00:53:28):

And so I want to draw some attention to one in particular. With the Lightspeed Systems solution suite, every device can be covered with the most effective web filter, student safety monitor, classroom management software device, manage tool, and analytics program available. And if you only seek one of the solutions or a smaller combination, Lightspeed Systems can work with you to deliver a custom configuration to fit your specific needs. And again, this five solutions on the screen, but I want to call your attention to Lightspeed Alert and that solution alerts your safety team to online warning signs of suicide, self harm, cyber bullying, or violence against others for quick intervention. So again, just a kind of a brief overview of those two solutions. We went over a lot of questions already, but we have time to take a couple more. And I do just want to call out that there will be a survey when you exit the webinar. So if you’re interested in learning more about Raptor, about Lightspeed, about both you can just let us know. You can also put in any other questions or comments in that survey as well, and that is it for the commercial. So David, I’ll hand it back to you to, to do one or two more questions before we wrap up.

David Rogers (00:54:49):

Well, I will say probably folks are going, Raptor and Lightspeed, they’re together on the same webinar. Why are they doing that? We’ll stay tuned for future new products coming down the pipeline. And we had a lot of questions around how do we do early intervention? How do we spot before a kid goes off the rails? We’re going to be addressing that and Lightspeed’s one of our partners in doing that. So we’re excited to be joined on with them. So we do have a little bit of time for some questions. I’ll take the one off top of the list. I think it’s a good one. Y’all talked about it earlier, how y’all worked together, the mental health professionals, the SROs, but should schools pair the SRO with the social worker to get better understanding of the at risk group? Now, Dr. Grosso you go first?

Dr. Amy Grosso (00:55:38):

Yes. A hundred percent. Yes, yes, yes. I was talking to one of ours. She’s actually our detective, but she’s worked for an agency before we had our own police department. We were talking about her connection with the school counselor and she wanted a list of students. It was called the blue list because red, you know, has a negative connotation, but students who she needed her eyes out for. If a student happens to be trying to run off campus, are they going to get a hamburger or is it a student who we know has had suicidal ideation concerns in the past and then leaving campus is a higher alert? And so she just kept a list at all times. So she knew who are the students. I really need to have my extra eyes on who are the students that I need to have good conversations with. Because it’s another person that cares. So I don’t think you can communicate enough between mental health, social workers, school counselors, whatever it is with your SROs. they have to, they’re all there to help students and the more you can share that information, the better students will be.

Chief Frank Kitzerow (00:56:46):

I agree a hundred percent. Yes, definitely should partner. And I would add something else onto what Dr. Grosso has already talked about. Not only are those partnerships important, but it’s also important to think about your overall relationships with your key stakeholders. I’ll give you a great example. I talk to school districts and they tell me they have really good robust emergency management plans that are very good. And if you’re not fortunate enough to have your own school police department, then my next question is, well, what binds the local law enforcement agencies to your plans and do they even know what your plans are? And so that sparks a whole other discussion because in the end the school district has their plans. Local law enforcement has theirs. The fire department has theirs. And if you don’t work together ahead of time you know, you’re going to have some challenges and if you want to get a good gauge on where you are with that, ask this simple question: ask your school staff, where is your primary reunification site? And then ask the local law enforcement agency, where is that school’s primary reunification site. And if they don’t know, there’s your gap right there, that’s the start of the gap. So a hundred. Yes.

David Rogers (00:58:06):

So there was a kind of a follow up to that and I think maybe a good one to end on. What if you had to give one piece of advice on how to get integrate social workers and officers together, what would it be? What’s the one thing that that would make, you know, the, the ultimate buddy system?

Chief Frank Kitzerow (00:58:30):

From, from my perspective, I would say it’s very simple. You each bring value, listen, listen, listen, and collaborate.

Dr. Amy Grosso (00:58:39):

And I was going to say mutual respect. You can’t go in thinking I’m the better of the two or anything like that. That both have important roles. I can’t tell you how much I have learned for the better of being in a police department. And that I had a lot to learn from their perspective. So you have to mutual respect and understanding.

Chief Frank Kitzerow (00:59:03):

Well that’s a two-way street. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned from the mental health professionals in the Palm Beach County School District and kudos to those folks. They’re just amazing.

David Rogers (00:59:14):

Well, I got the feeling if districts across the country, you know, saw this. I mean, y’all only met a couple of times, right. And seeing how closely y’all are aligned on all this. You’re saying all the same things, you know, one from the police angle, one from the social work behavioral side, it’s amazing to me. And so I think that that mutual respect: we’ve had it here today. I think if you could continue to draw on that and spread it out, spread the love across all the districts, I think we would see a much better result. I want to thank you both for your time. Dr. Grosso, Chief, always a pleasure. It’s been a fun conversation. I’m sad that the hour is over because I think we could have kept going. Everyone, thank you for joining us. If you have an opportunity to go look at our products on the Lightspeed or Raptor website or if you ever want to have a salesperson contact you, please reach out to us, but we’ve enjoyed having you here today and thank you again for coming.