Threat assessment: School officials, law enforcement learn about managing threats

John Van Dreal speaks to the audience of local officials during Thursday’s threat assessment training in the Owyhee room at Four Rivers Cultural Center in Ontario.

ONTARIO — The Owyhee room at Four Rivers Cultural Center was packed on Wednesday and Thursday as local school officials, law enforcement officials and other local authorities learned about threat assessment and management at schools.

The threat assessment training was hosted by the Malheur County Education Service District and was run by Property & Casualty Coverage for Education (PACE).

The goal of the training was to review the fundamentals of reducing school violence and detailing the Salem-Keizer model of threat assessment and management.

The training was facilitated by John Van Dreal, a retired school psychologist and the director of safety and risk management services for the Salem-Keizer School District. According to a release from PACE, Van Dreal has 30 years of experience in threat assessment and management, psycho-educational evaluation, crisis intervention, behavioral intervention, and security and risk management systems consolation.

The Salem-Keizer model of threat assessment is largely based on assessing the threats of potentially harmful behavior by a student, determining the necessary level of action required to avoid any violence and also finding the right sort of help for that student to avoid future harmful behavior.

Over the two days, Van Dreal walked those in attendance through real-life scenarios that the Salem-Keizer school district has seen, and walked them through the steps that were taken to avoid violent incidents.

Malheur ESD student wellness coordinator Jennifer Susuki said she was blown away by the quality of the training that they went through this week.

“It’s probably the best training I’ve ever had,” Susuki said. “The training is increasing every year. We want to bring trauma-informed care to more schools.”

PACE administrator Dave Harvey said it’s very important for the educators to go through an intensive training like this regularly.

“It’s the kind of thing that can’t be done in a webinar,” Harvey said. “We really have to get together every once in a while.”

One of the biggest focal points of the training was how to spot students who may be displaying potentially violent behaviors and how to get students the best help they can get before anything turns violent.

“We’re not about pulling kids out of school,” Harvey said. “We want to be able to provide those inhibitors so that we can keep every one safe a the same time. It’s another tool in the toolbox.”

Susuki also added that Malheur ESD is hoping to hire a threat assessment coordinator within the next year or so, who will be able to work with all of the county’s schools to address.

Nik Streng is the sports reporter for the Argus Observer. He graduated from the University of Oregon in 2015 with a master's degree in journalism, after graduating from Pacific University in 2013 with a degree in creative writing.

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