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Southampton school division undergoes K-12 threat assessment training

The presenter for the training was, at left, Dr. Gene Deisinger, a licensed psychologist, a certified health service provider in psychology. Here, he’s talking to Darian Bell, principal of Southampton Middle School. — Submitted Alice Williams

By Alice Williams

COURTLAND

On Oct. 24, Southampton County Public Schools hosted a training on K-12 Threat Assessment. School safety is a priority of the school division, and educating the staff is an important step in promoting the “Health, Safety, and Well-Being” of students and staff.

The training was arranged by Betsy Bell, Threat Assessment coordinator at the Virginia Center for School and Campus Safety of the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services. The presenter for the training was Gene Deisinger, Ph.D. Dr. Deisinger is a licensed psychologist, a certified health service provider in psychology and, until his retirement, a certified law enforcement officer. He is president of Deisinger Consulting LLC, a professional services firm specializing in operational psychology, behavioral health, and behavioral threat assessment and management services for an international base of clients. Until 2014, Dr. Deisinger served as deputy chief of police; director of Threat Management Services for Virginia Tech, positions to which he had been recruited following the 2007 mass casualty incident at that campus.

Participants in the training included faculty and staff from each of the Southampton County schools and the district office including teachers, paraprofessionals, cafeteria staff, custodial staff, nurses, counselors, school psychologist, administrators, the division superintendent, the school security officer and school resources officers. Invited guests attending were staff from the Appomattox Regional Governors School.

During the one-day session, Dr. Deisinger conducted an interactive training discussing the threat assessment process and providing supporting materials and guides to establishing an effective threat assessment team. A component of the training was the illustrations and shared details of historical events to assist attendees with understanding the consciousness and significance of behaviors which serve as indicators to students and staff in crisis.

The afternoon portion of the training included a tabletop exercise that simulated an actual crisis situation. This allowed participants to engage and collaborate to determine appropriate and proper steps/actions to take when/if a real situation occurs. Participants were afforded the opportunity to converse with Dr. Deisinger as a group and on an individual basis during the training. A wealth of resources was provided to participants and included DCJS manuals, source websites, a list of reference books and upcoming trainings/events/conference dates, which included information on an upcoming national conference for educational institutes on threat assessment being held in Richmond, Virginia.

Other takeaways from the presentation were the legalities of sharing information. Dr. Deisinger shared information on “Understanding and Navigating the Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act” and “Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act Privacy Rule: A Guide for Law Enforcement.”

Over the last decade, access to information falling under FERPA and HIPPA has transitioned to provide information to school threat assessment teams to better support individuals in crisis.

The Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services provides many services, specific to school safety through the Virginia Center for School and Campus Safety. Additional resources for K-12 public schools from DCJS-VCSCS may be found by visiting www.dcjs.virginia.gov/vcscs. A prevention overview of threat assessment for staff, parents, and community partners can be obtained through the Virginia C.A.R.E.S. for School & Campus Safety Program.

C.A.R.E.S. was developed in 2016 to illustrate initiatives by VCSCS, under DCJS [and others], to support schools and campuses in enhancing school safety, and supporting the programs in place across the Commonwealth.

At the conclusion of the training, Dr. Deisinger stated, “I feel privileged to collaborate with education and law enforcement professionals, such as those here in Southampton, who are so deeply committed to the safety and well-being of their schools.”

Dr. Gwendolyn Shannon, division superintendent, expressed her appreciation to Dr. Deisinger and the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services for working with the faculty, staff and community partners regarding the threat assessment process.

Dr. Shannon stated, “As a division, we continually strive to provide a safe and secure school environment for our students and staff. We value the information shared by Dr. Deisinger and the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services and appreciate the opportunity to have dialogue with and learn from an expert in the field of school safety.”