ALERT
La Loche, Saskatchewan Shootings

Traumatic Aftermath
and
Violence Threat Risk Assessment (VTRA)

“The fields of Violence Threat Risk Assessment (VTRA) and Crisis/Trauma Response are inseparably connected.” J. Kevin Cameron

In the aftermath of the shootings in La Loche, Saskatchewan, we now have a national critical period for both increased threats to duplicate the crime, as well as a critical period for an increase in trauma symptoms.  This threat is not just at ground zero (where the traumatic event occurred) but in many schools and communities across the Country (impact zone). Although high profile shootings have spiked dramatically in the United States, the tragedy in La Loche is the highest profile incident in a Canadian High School since the 1999 school shooting in Taber, Alberta.  A tragedy of this magnitude on our soil means we are in the most significant school-based critical period we have experienced as a country, in almost 17 years. As such, this ALERT will remain in effect longer than usual to include as much condensed information as possible.

Whether the case is VTRA, Crisis/Trauma Response or both, remember that high-profile violence does not cause people to go from zero (no risk) to sixty (extreme risk) – instead it simply “intensifies pre-existing symptoms in already troubled individuals.”  As all prior ALERTS or E-Memos have focused on VTRA, this ALERT will begin with key points regarding traumatic aftermath and will conclude with key points regarding VTRA.

Crises/Trauma Response – The Traumatic Event Systems (TES) Model

Key Points:

1.     First principle of Crisis/Trauma Response is “model calmness.”

2.     A standard of Psychological First Aid is that traumatized individuals will often seek us out if we present ourselves as safe to approach and available.

3.     Communication regarding where and when counselling and support services will be offered is essential; and having the right “types” of helpers there is paramount. This can be a well-organized combination of skilled therapists/counsellors and naturally skilled helpers under the direction of a clearly identified team leader.

4.     Some individuals may not seek out services, and yet are in need of intervention and may need professionals to “over function” on their behalf by identifying them and making the first contact.

5.     School staff, district leaders, helping professionals from the community and others should formally meet as often as necessary to identify and then triage those we believe may currently be at the highest level of risk. The following are key criteria:

Potentional High Risk Students:

Note: This criteria may be applied to assess potential risk of staff and parents as well:

·                    anyone whose senses were activated by traumatic stimuli (i.e. students and staff who witness a school incident).

·                    immediate family members.

·                    relatives.

·                    close friends.

·                    boyfriend/girlfriend.

·                    team mates.

·                    ex-boyfriend(s)/girlfriend(s).

·                    classmates.

·                    students, staff, parents with active mental health concerns (i.e., suicidal ideation, severe depression, anxiety disorder…).

·                    students, staff, parents who abuse drugs and alcohol.

·                    students, staff, parents with a significant emotional tie with the deceased…….positive or negative.  (This includes any individual who was involved in an adversarial relationship with a victim.)

·                    students, staff and parents who have experienced an historical or recent loss such as the death of a parent, sibling, friend, spouse, etc.

·                    students, staff, parents with unresolved abuse/trauma.

·                    leaders or over-responsible students, staff and parents who may blame themselves for “not seeing the signs” or not “knowing what to do”.

·                    any individual who you intuitively suspect may be at risk.

6.     In the aftermath of a high-profile traumatic event there is a belief that those in the community most impacted only want help from people they know. However, our experience is that “some” people only want help from people they know while “other” people will only want help from people they do not know. Therefore a combination of local and outside supports is the best intervention.

7.     Trauma Response Continuum – ensure that everyone understands that the response to trauma is on a continuum from individuals who may not be impacted at all, to those with profound symptoms, and every possible response in between. As well, some may have acute symptoms only, while others may have chronic symptoms.

8.     It is very common to have either delayed or denied responses to trauma. A delayed response comes from individuals who are either required by their profession, or by nature in their families or friendship groups, to be a formal or natural leader. If traumatized, many of these individuals do not exhibit symptoms until weeks, months or a year after the first anniversary has passed; and when those they were helping are now stable.

9.     Everyone has a “right” to be as impacted as they need to be. Sadly, after many high profile tragedies many people will ridicule others saying they don’t have a right to be traumatized, because “they barely knew the deceased/victim(s)”.  Especially during a high profile trauma, people’s personal histories of grief, loss and trauma from the past, have a way of converging as the current loss feels like they are reliving the past. BE COMPASSIONATE.

10.  All systems go! In the Traumatic Event Systems (TES) Model we focus on ensuring that services are delivered to those most immediately impacted first. Then, in general, students (children and youth) are the next priority, followed by school staff, and parents/caregivers. In many cases, where crisis/trauma response efforts either had no real effect, or made matters worse, it was because professionals focused on the students only and failed to support staff and parents.  All systems go means we take care of:

·        Students (children and youth)

·        Staff (teachers, support staff and administration)

·        Parents/Caregivers (including other adult community members who are connected to or impacted by the aftermath of a tragedy)

11.    Communication:  Staff need to be communicated with openly so they understand all of the key circumstances that may affect them and their students, as well as know how they can help and be helped. Parent/Caregiver meetings also need to occur to educate parents how to determine if their children are doing okay and if not, what to do and where to go. Professionals need to assist some parents with how to talk to their children by modeling through how we talk to parents. Parents/Caregivers also need our support, as during Traumatic Events we consistently see dramatic symptom development in parents, especially if they feel they do NOT have a right to be traumatized and yet are bearing the weight of the symptoms. BE COMPASSIONATE.

12.    School district leadership, police, city/town councils, cultural leaders, mental health, social services, health regions and others need to be publicly seen together from time to time for press conference updates and privately seen together for parent/community meetings, staff meetings etc. One of the most powerful ways to “model calmness” for the entire community is for these agencies to truly collaborate together. We can “feel” if we are in good hands. BE COMPASSIONATE.

Violence Threat Risk Assessment (VTRA)

Key Points:

1.     It is essential to stay hyper-vigilant when receiving any reports of students, staff, parents or others exhibiting “worrisome behaviours”. Because of how high profile this incident is we should also be watchful of anyone who may be struggling at this time.

2.     Be aware that if there is a shift in the behavioural baseline of a student it is important to collect data in collaboration with local support agencies and conduct other assessments prior to taking any disciplinary measures. “Stage I Threat Assessment (VTRA) trumps suspension”.

3.     The school/police relationship is the foundation for Stage 1 Violence Threat Risk Assessment (VTRA) and staff should be formally connecting with each other to review the VTRA protocol/process. Mental health, child protection, probation and other related community partners should be informed as to the contents of this ALERT.

4.     Pay close attention to VTRA cases where the individual being assessed has inordinate knowledge of violent incidents worldwide or seems fixated on this recent incident.

5.     Identification with the Aggressor: “The more a troubled individual identifies with the aggressor the more it will increase their level of risk”. Therefore, pay close attention to the media coverage about details of the alleged perpetrator. The profile they create and/or glean from social media about the shooter will provide insight to VTRA team members across the country as to who may be contextually high risk, because they are caught within this current impact zone.

6.     Reminder that a critical period is a ‘predictable time frame for increased threat- making or threat-related behaviour’ that will extend at least two weeks beyond the extensive media coverage and social media reports. Because of social media the critical period in La Loche will last the longest followed by the Province of Saskatchewan. The rest of the countries critical period should be as already noted.

7.     All VTRA cases that come to your attention need to include a comprehensive review of the individuals’ online behaviour and digital footprint as that is where we find the most blatant pre-incident signs and indicators. The role that social media plays as both a risk enhancer as well as a prominent contributing source of VTRA data has never been stronger. An accurate VTRA risk determination cannot be made without reviewing the entirety of their digital baseline.

8.     We need to “strategically” intensify our connections with our highest risk children and youth (as well as staff and parents and caregivers) who may be “Empty Vessels”. Remember “no one can engage in a serious act of violence unless they feel “justified” in attacking that target or type of target”. The power of positive, meaningful human connection is one of the best violence prevention strategies we can utilize.

9.     Every high-baseline school should be provided, if deemed necessary, with an increase in visibility of our School Resource Officers or other police of jurisdiction during the first couple of days back to school. The presence of a relaxed police officer interacting with students, staff and parents in the beginning of the day can help to lower the anxiety for schools across the country that may have had their own histories of violence or other traumas.

CONCLUSION

We are aware that in some regions of the country where signed VTRA Protocols exist the task of giving “Fair Notice” about the protocol has not been completed or not done at all. As noted in the 9th Edition of the “Community Protocol for Violence Threat Risk Assessment (VTRA) and Intervention”:

Prior to any violence threat risk assessment (VTRA) protocol being implemented, all students, staff, and parents should be provided with information about the protocol and procedures so that “fair notice” is given that violence and threats of violence will not be tolerated. Senior school division and community agency personnel should take the lead in presenting the protocol to ensure that students, parents and staff are all aware that the new protocol is a jurisdiction-wide policy and that a consistent message is given regarding its use.

Fair Notice can be given through letters to parents, brochures, media releases, parent meetings, staff meetings, new student orientation or all of the above. School districts/divisions may also include a brief “Fair Notice” statement in student “agendas”.

In the least we need to educate staff to know what they should report; when to report; and to whom. A 15 to 30 minute staff meeting where those trained in VTRA can give a quick overview will help to inoculate untrained professionals to be more aware.

On the short-term we recommend that all VTRA protocol jurisdictions provide a brief overview (or refresher) of the basics of the model such as:

·        Serious violence is an evolutionary process – no one just snaps.

·        Everyone moves along a “Pathway of Justification”.

·        The biggest problem in the aftermath of high-profile violence is “under reaction” to often blatant indicators someone is moving on a pathway to serious violence.

·        First hypothesis in threat assessment “It’s a cry for help”!

·        Second hypothesis in threat assessment “conspiracy of two or more”.

·        The Quote that Kills: “Good Student (Nice Staff) with no history of violence can’t believe they would do it” as justification for not reporting a threat.

·        Empty Vessels

There is no question that as a country we have been doing amazing work in strengthening multi-agency collaboration in a number of areas including Violence Threat Risk Assessment. The outpouring of support for our friends and colleagues in La Loche has been an example of this and while hearts are broken, the unconquerable Saskatchewan spirit is evident even in this struggle. Be compassionate; be open and be truly “available” during this critical phase.

J. Kevin Cameron, M.Sc., R.S.W., B.C.E.T.S., B.C.S.C.R.

Board Certified Expert in Traumatic Stress

Diplomate, American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress

Executive Director, Canadian Centre for Threat Assessment & Trauma Response
Theresa Campbell, M.A.

President, Safer Schools Together Ltd.

Bullying prevention expert warns parents about two social-media apps

Theresa Campbell, lead trainer for ERASE (Expect Respect And A Safe Education), described cyber-bullying as “social assassination” and told the conference it is spreading at a disturbing rate. She warned parents about two social-media sites in particular: snapchat and ask.fm.

For full article log on to http://www.bccpac.bc.ca/news-blog/anti-bullying-expert-warns-parents-about-two-social-media-apps

mom-kid_0

Student leaders to advise government on ERASE bullying strategy

Student leaders to advise government on ERASE bullying strategy

The ERASE Student Advisory will have two adult subject-matter experts to advise and guide them:

  • Theresa Campbell is the president of Safer Schools Together and the lead trainer for ERASE Bullying. She is an international expert on student safety and improving school climate and culture.
  • Jesse Miller is a respected international authority on social media safety issues.

For full article go to http://www.newsroom.gov.bc.ca/2014/01/student-leaders-to-advise-government-on-erase-bullying-strategy.html 

New B.C. website receives 350 reports of bullying in first year

erase article v sun imageNew B.C. website receives 350 reports of bullying in first year

“The reported incidents have included everything from vandalism to assault to uttering threats.”

“I think the big thing where we’re seeing unbelievable response and powerful interventions is due to kids’ online behaviour in relationship to social media. Kids are forwarding links to accounts where kids are being publicly shamed, or instances of sexting,” Campbell said.

For the full article log on to: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/website+receives+reports+bullying+first+year/9687577/story.html#ixzz35rFoN7O8

Violence Threat Risk Assessment (VTRA) Protocols must be utilized to their fullest during this “Extended Critical Period”

Issued June 2014

Violence Threat Risk Assessment (VTRA) Protocols must be utilized to their fullest during this “Extended Critical Period”

As most of you aware there have been a number of high profile violent incidents in British Columbia, across Canada and the United States in the past few weeks. These high profile violent acts result in “Critical Periods” (predictable time frames for increased threat making and threat related behaviour) throughout the impact zones where media coverage exists. There have been multiple homicides and high profile violent incidents where the “First Critical Period” (two weeks post-incident) have coincided with each other and has created the most intense high risk period since the aftermath of the Columbine High School shootings.

It is essential to stay hyper-vigilant for the last few days of school as students return to write their exams and as you receive any reports of worrisome behaviour being exhibited. With a Provincial and National perspective, the volume of plausible threats to kill, weapons possession (especially knives) and extreme worrisome behaviour cases is the highest we have seen in over a decade and most school districts can “feel” the weight of being caught within so many “coinciding impact zones”.

April is a natural critical period because of Columbine and other high profile incidents like Virginia Tech that occurred. You may not be aware that the second Fort Hood Military Base shooting occurred April 2, 2014 then a week later on April 9, 2014 at Franklin Regional High School in Pennsylvania a sixteen year old male student stabbed 21 fellow students and a security guard. Since these high profile attacks the volume of multiple victim homicides has grown steadily. We cannot possibly include all the workplace and post-secondary incidents during this timeframe but this communiqué is relevant to all workplace sectors. Therefore it is relevant to adult VTRA cases as well (staff and parents).

As such, at the end of this communiqué is an overview of some of the more media-focused incidents since April 2nd, 2014.

Key Points:

1) The school-police relationship is still the foundation for Stage I VTRA and both should be formally connecting with each other to review the VTRA protocol/process. Mental Health, Child Protection, Probation, and other related partners also need to be brought in the loop as to the contents of this communication.

2) Under-reaction is still the biggest problem we have where even VTRA trained professionals, for a variety of reasons, do not activate the protocol.

3) High profile violence does not cause people to go from zero (no risk) to sixty (extreme risk) – instead it simply “intensifies already existing symptoms”.

4) The age, gender and socio-economic backgrounds of the perpetrators of these many violent acts is so varied that most high-risk and “primed” for violence individuals can find at least one multiple victim attack they can identify with (identification with the aggressor). Therefore keep in mind that the more a troubled individual can identify with a perpetrator the more it will increase their level of risk.

5) The “target selection” has broadened from targeted violence of people personally known to the perpetrators to “types of targets” (not personally known but viewed as justifiable targets) such as multiple death homicides of police officers in Moncton, New Brunswick and Las Vegas, Nevada to completely “random target selection” cases. Therefore “Target Selection” and “Site Selection” is broad and multiagency collaboration needs to be intensified to meet the current social dynamics.

6) All VTRA cases that come to your attention need to include a social networking scan on the person(s) of interest as that is where we find the most blatant pre-incident signs and indicators.

7) We need to “strategically” intensify our connections with our highest risk children and youth (Empty Vessels) during this time as no one can engage in a serious act of violence unless they feel “justified” in attacking that target or type of target. The power of positive, meaningful human connection is one of the best violence prevention strategies we can easily employ.

Notwithstanding the current climate in North America, the commitment in Canada to formalized multi-agency collaboration for Violence Threat Risk Assessment and the development and use VTRA Protocols has set us apart as a leading Nation. Our level of commitment to learn together and act together has already saved many lives!

Sincerely,

J. Kevin Cameron, Executive Director,

Canadian Centre for Threat Assessment and Trauma Response

www.cctatr.com

Theresa Campbell, President, Safer Schools Together

www.saferschoolstogether.com

info@saferschoolstogether.com

Safer Schools Together develops Cyberbullying Training for Justice System

cyber picSafer Schools Together has been contracted to develop training on Cyberbullying for the Ministry of Justice and Public Safety that will be relevant to justice system personnel and others who work with youth in conflict with the law.  Content includes information on the nature and dynamics of cyberbullying, technologies used, and potential consequences of the behaviour upon victims.  It will include face-to-face training and a train-the-trainer session with subject matter experts presenting on the material.

Theresa joins PM in Surrey to announce extension to youth gang prevention funds

Harper Surrey visit (2) - CopyHarper gives special thanks to Theresa for her help in emceeing  at announcement of government’s extension to youth gang prevention fund and concludes by once again thanking Theresa Campbell and her colleagues for their work here at Wraparound Surrey, as well as the countless, dedicated people like them across Canada.

“Your efforts are making a difference, a difference in our communities today, and a difference in our children’s futures.  You are making Canada better, and for that, we thank you.”

See more at: http://pm.gc.ca/eng/news/2011/03/15/pm-announces-extension-youth-gang-prevention-fund#sthash.G7WDvMb5.dpuf

 

ERASE Bullying Awareness video for parents to be developed

Education Minister Peter Fassbender works with Theresa Campbell and Jesse Miller on an educational tool for parents as part of the ERASE strategy.  This video will hep parent learn the preventative actions and techniques they can take to protect their children and to find out what to do if their child is a target of cyberbullying.

To read the full release, log on to the following link.

http://www2.news.gov.bc.ca/news_releases_2013-2017/2013EDUC0088-001732.htm

Theresa Campbell presents before 4000 delegates

Theresa Campbell presents before 4000 delegates at the 15th Annual Privacy & Security Conference in Victoria BC – Feb 5-7, 2014.

Harnessing the Power of the Digital Storm: Can We Have it All?

Theresa Campbell, President, Safer Schools Together Ltd.  participated in the panel on Social Media, Online Reputation, Harassment and Bullying at the 15th Annual Privacy and Security Conference in Victoria, BC in February 2014 attended by 4000 delegates.

Social Media Online Reputation-Harassment and Bullying

Just because social media allows us to observe and comment on everyone we see, should we? How can we adopt to social conventions of face-to-face communications to this brave new world of digital relationships? If we choose to tease or joke about another person online, does everyone realize our comments are in jest? Do we believe that the anonymity of hurtful and mean-spirited comments posted online relieve us of our responsibility to our friends and communities? Join us in a conversation about how social and digital media has affected the way we see ourselves and others – and can cause real harms when we ignore the conventions of a civilized society.

Panel Moderator: Richard Purcell, Chief Executive Officer, Corporate Privacy Group

Speakers:

  • Theresa Campbell, President, Safer Schools Together
  • Darren Laur, Staff Sergeant, Victoria Police Department
  • Murray Rankin, MP, Member of Parliament for Victoria
  • Erinne Paisley, Student, Reynolds Secondary School
  • Gillian Kular, Acting Intake Manager, PIPEDA Investigations Branch, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

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