PARKLAND (CBSMiami) – The United States Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC) studied dozens of previous school attacks in hopes of preventing future ones.
The NTAC looked at more than 40 school attacks in the United States between 2008 and 2017.
They gleaned important insights about attacker’s home lives, school lives, mental health struggles, accessibility to weapons among other important pieces of information.
The bottom line, the Secret Service says, is that while there is no single profile of a student attacker, there are critical steps that can be taken to reduce the likelihood of an attack.
They believe establishing a comprehensive threat assessment team is the best practice.
“The threat assessment process that the Secret Service advocates is not punitive in nature but one that is preventative and one that is about care, support for students experiencing crisis or other type of distress,” explained Lead Social Science Research Specialist Steven Driscoll.
The two-day training session for school officials and law enforcement officials is unfolding in Miami.
The goal is to assist schools and others involved in the school system to understand the need for timely sharing of important information about possible school threats.
At Tuesday’s session, reporters heard from NTAC officials as well as three fathers of victims of the Parkland shooting, Tony Montalto, Max Schachter and Ryan Petty. Each shared stories of their personal loss.
“The murder of our great and lovely daughter was devastating to our family,” said Montalto, of his daughter, Gina.
“I never thought he would be murdered in his English class,” said Schachter, of his son, Alex.
Meanwhile, Petty told of the dark moments after the murder of his daughter, Alaina, and his desperate search for answers.
“My naive question was how do we stop the next school shooting?” Petty said.
The three fathers stand united in their grief over the deaths of their children at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. They also stand united in their efforts to prevent others from sharing their fate. That’s why they support the efforts of NTAC and are pushing for federal legislation to increase funding for the training, which has been shared over the years more than 2,000 times with stakeholders in the education system nationwide.
“The building blocks for an effective program are right here in this report,” Montalto said, holding the NTAC report.
The NTAC research revealed loads of information about everything from the prevalence of mental health problems in attackers to the fact that many of them were bullied. There are other important takeaways, for instance, that most attackers used firearms and those firearms were located in their home and as well as details about the timing of the attacks in the attacker’s school life.
“They frequently took place after breaks in school attendance,” said Dr. Lina Althieri, NTAC Chief, adding that the breaks could be for summer or winter break, expulsion or illness.
Driscoll said most attackers were victims of bullying and many had prior school disciplinary problems as well as prior contact with law enforcement.
While NTAC touts the necessity of the threat assessment process, Petty pointed out that the confessed Parkland shooter went through a threat assessment process about 16 months prior to the Parkland shooting but it went nowhere.
The MSD Commission, which studied the Parkland shooting, determined that Assistant Principal Jeff Morford “mishandled” the threat assessment process because he was “not familiar” with it.
“They failed to understand the importance of completing the threat assessment so that steps towards intervention could have been taken,” Petty said.
Schachtet also lamented the fact that many people on the MSD campus knew about the confessed shooter’s threats but either failed to speak up or when they did, their concerns were dismissed.
“There were six different instances of Marjory Stoneman Douglas staff being told that the murderer was going to shoot up my little boy’s school and nothing was done,” Schachter said.
The Parkland parents believe much of this research was available to schools and law enforcement prior to Parkland and might have prevented the tragedy.
“Had the tools developed by NTAC been used properly, my lovely daughter and the 16 other wonderful souls taken in the massacre might still be here today,” Montalto said.
Broward and Miami-Dade schools tell CBS 4 News that they are sending high level security officials to the training this week.
The Parkland parents said they hoped to see school superintendents from Broward and Miami-Dade at the training.
“The superintendent’s should be here because this starts at the top,” Petty said. “Nothing they do matters if those kids don’t go home.”