Since 2018, the District Attorney’s Office has been working to prevent potential school shooters who make or pose a threat of targeted school violence prior to an attack, through the San Diego County School Threats Protocol, The protocol encompasses all forty-two K-12 school districts and guides how schools, law enforcement and prosecutors respond to school threats, using evidence-based guidelines for investigation and resolution of the threat. This innovative protocol was updated in November 2021 and incorporates the latest research from the U.S. Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center.
One of the most important findings from our work in this area is the critical role teachers and school staff play in detecting and addressing concerning and threatening behavior. . When we look back at most school shootings, attackers made threats or exhibited concerning behaviors that were ignored or went unreported. San Diego’s protocol highlights the importance of recognizing warning signs, reporting them, and working together to with our community partners to keep everyone safe.
Equally important is the role the public, students and parents have of alerting law enforcement to harmful threats and concerning behaviors, even if they seem insignificant at the time. Consider this: 93 percent of school shooters make plans to carry out their attack. About 80 percent of them tell at least one person and 60 percent tell at least two people of their plan.
With these statistics, it is more than clear why law enforcement relies on all of us to prevent school shootings. We need the public to report threatening or concerning behavior. In San Diego County, every threat is handled under the protocol to disrupt any plan and prevent harm.