LEXINGTON — Massachusetts Partnerships for Youth sponsored a school safety conference on Nov. 28 at Minuteman Vocational Technical School in Lexington.

MPY’s second conference focusing on school safety, “Building Effective Threat Assessment Teams to Prevent Targeted Violence” addressed opportunities and challenges that schools face to create and maintain supportive school environments. This conference is a follow-up to the MPY Annual School Safety Summit, held on Nov. 14, also at Minuteman.

The conference was kicked off by a presentation by Todd McGhee, a renowned former law enforcement official and media commentator. This presentation focused on techniques to de-escalate a variety of potentially violent situations.

Dr. James Barrett, an expert in threat assessment, walked the attendees through the components of building an effective threat assessment team, including what personnel are essential to the process of building a multi-disciplinary team. He explained how to differentiate between transient threats and substantive threats and appropriate responses to each. Resources to address substantive threats, such as the Massachusetts Bay State Threat Assessment Team, were recommended, along with practical suggestions to minimize the possibility of targeted violence.

The Department of Homeland Security Regional Prevention Coordinator for Massachusetts, Robert Mahoney, spoke about building community awareness regarding steps to prevent targeted violence. Mr. Mahoney also offered federal resources to assist school safety efforts.

Boston Children’s Hospital and Massachusetts Partnerships for Youth are partnering on an initiative to build model threat assessment teams in Massachusetts. This initiative, in its second year, is funded through a U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant. Massachusetts Partnerships for Youth School Safety Coordinator John Oteri and Dr. Kathlyn Elliot, a Postdoctoral Fellow at Boston Children’s Hospital’s Trauma and Community Resilience Center led a panel discussion about building threat assessment teams in schools. She made the attendees aware of the Massachusetts Area Prevention Program (MAPP) and how this may assist schools when serious threats are uncovered.

Dr. Elliot and Mr. Oteri were joined by Dr. Kathleen Provost, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Professional Learning and Catherine Kilcoyne, Director of Student Services, from the Hudson Public Schools. Sandra Goldstein, Director of School Counseling and Admissions from Essex North Shore Agricultural and Technical School, and Vincent Cerce, Director of Pupil Personnel Services from the Norton Public Schools also participated as panelists.

This panel discussed the complexities of implementing a threat assessment team and how to effectively use assessment tools and find appropriate coordinated responses. Pathways to supporting youth and how to capitalize on protective factors was also emphasized.

Massachusetts Partnerships for Youth School Safety Coordinator John Oteri commented, ”The panelists from the three school districts brought the previous presentations to life and explained the nuts and bolts of how to integrate the threat assessment teams into the fabric of the school district.”

Massachusetts Partnerships for Youth Executive Director Margie Daniels closed the conference by saying that “The mission of MPY is to keep students safe, physically, and emotionally. Multidisciplinary Threat Assessment Teams are integral, and I applaud the Hudson, Norton, and Essex Tech leaders for their information presentation today.”  

About the Massachusetts Partnerships for Youth, Inc.

Massachusetts Partnerships for Youth, Inc. is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that provides training, fosters collaboration, and develops programming to increase the health and safety of students. MPY is committed to bringing cutting-edge information and high-quality trainings to constituents and endeavors to provide solution-oriented, community-based, multi-disciplinary approaches to reducing and ideally eliminating risky behaviors for youth.

Massachusetts Partnerships for Youth is governed by a Board of Directors made up of school superintendents, police and fire chiefs, and other community leaders who work closely with MPY staff to deliver this mission. To learn more, visit: https://massachusettspartnershipsforyouth.com/

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