Today is our national holiday in observance of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday – and as we outline the last six of our 26 Acts, I take inspiration from his words: “Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” This is as true for the not-for-profit school violence prevention center we are creating here as one of the hidden messages that I believe is deeply embedded in Dr. King’s observation: that even if we don’t have all the answers immediately, we have confidence, we have our vision and our experience – and these will carry us through.
Applying these words of wisdom to our task at hand, I believe that our success as a nation will depend, among many other factors, on how well we take a critical node of expertise that very few experts in this country have direct experience in applying – i.e., behavioral threat assessment – and make it available to support 130,000 schools across the country. Yes, that is a monumental task – much harder than it will be to bring enhanced security to each school location; to conduct social media monitoring for online behaviors of concern; …or even to mount multi-disciplinary threat assessment training teams in each of our schools or school districts. Why? Because experience matters, enormously. Because training is only one stepping stone on the path to applying this body of knowledge to real-world circumstances. Because – just as we would never allow a newly trained surgeon to operate on our brain without direct experience – we have to be careful to ensure that the value of behavioral threat analysis is brought to bear with a practiced hand. That fact alone carries very significant implications for training – in threat assessment and cross-functional threat assessment team operations – as well as for additional areas such as mentoring and certification. The risks reside in the details.
Over the next three Acts, I’ll touch briefly on the three major phases of behavioral threat assessment – identification, assessment and management – and where experience in their application is vital. Today, as Act #21, we commit to taking a leading role in determining what national-level model for the delivery of experience-based threat assessment expertise to our thousands of schools at the local level makes the most sense for us as a nation. And today, I am more confident than ever that we can work together as a nation to prevent another senseless act of targeted violence in our schools. As President Obama stated today in his inaugural address, “America’s possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention. My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it – so long as we seize it together.” I’m ready to seize this opportunity. Will you help?