Violence prevention teams are in the works for Montgomery County schools

Changes to better prevent violence are planned in Montgomery County Public Schools, but its board first wants to know what you think.

The plan is to create new behavioral threat assessment teams at every school and at the district level to meet the requirements of the Maryland Safe to Learn Act, which passed last year.

The goal is “to provide support and interventions to those — may it be a student, a staff member, a parent, community member or another individual — who may potentially want to come and do harm within the school district,” said Dr. Christina Conolly, the district’s director of psychological services.

“The teams in the school, they will be responsible for assessing and providing supports to students. Any other individuals who may come forward — let’s say it’s a staff member — that would go forward to the district team.”

Each team will include a building administrator; a school-based mental health professional, such as a psychologist or counselor; and a school resource officer. There will also be specialists able to deal with students who happen to be in special education or in English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) programs.

“Of course, if someone comes to the school with a gun, we’re going to call 911 — there isn’t going to be a behavioral threat assessment team [interaction]. I want to make sure people are aware of that,” Conolly said.

“But let’s say someone reports something that’s a rumor, false … we want to make sure those are weeded out. Maybe they still need support, but [it’s a case of] ‘I’m angry today; I said something and I really don’t mean it.'”

Training people to be part of the teams started a year ago, Conolly said.

“We noticed the need for this before the Maryland Safe To Learn Act, and we started conducting training in May of 2018. We have currently … trained approximately 261 staff members,” she said.

The next training sessions are scheduled this week, with more planned this summer and during the coming school year.

The behavioral threat assessment teams are part of a new school board policy that the board is accepting public comment on through June 5.

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Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter turned morning anchor at WTOP News.

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