Safety officials rely on schools to report, document threats - WSMV News 4

Safety officials rely on schools to report, document threats

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The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has seen an average of 30 school threats a day nationwide since the deadly mass shooting in Florida.

Officials say this cycle is typical, but every threat should be taken seriously.

Authorities with Tennessee's Department of Safety & Homeland Security rely on schools and local law enforcement to report and document all threats.

The issue is that all agencies don't always follow the same reporting guidelines.

News 4 reached out to six different counties in Middle Tennessee to find out how many threats have been documented:

  • Metro Nashville Public Schools - 100 school threats since the first day of school in August
  • Montgomery County - No list compiled for this school year
  • Rutherford County - Officials only keep track of threats that result in discipline
  • Sumner County - No response after multiple attempts to contact officials
  • Williamson County - Officials only keep track of threats that result in discipline
  • Wilson County - 29 threats so far this school year (seven of those might not be categorized as school shooting threats). Eleven students have been charged for making threats since the shooting in Florida, according to the sheriff's office.

Rick Shipkowski, the state's assistant commissioner for Homeland Security, says every school district needs their own unique safety plan.

However, the challenge begins when schools decide to resolve the issue internally instead of making it a law enforcement issue.

"A school district absolutely should know how many threats have been made in that district and the specifics. There's no excuse not to do that," Shipkowski said.

Shipkowski says he believes more specific guidelines for reporting will be coming from the state level within the next few months.

Much of this reporting comes from what students see and hear, but one big habit interferes with that process.

Shipkowski says students spend so much time staring at their phones at lunch or walking the halls that they are missing signals they could be reporting or may not even realize they're in immediate danger.

According to Shipkowski, everyone is responsible for being aware of their surroundings, not just students and teachers.

"The custodian in schools is as important as principal is as important as the cafeteria worker when it comes to ensuring school is secure, that threats are reported and that our students stay safe," Shipkowski said.

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