School threat expert returns to Tulare County

Local school districts can learn how to recognize warning signs in students and prevent violence at upcoming training conference

TULARE COUNTY – The Tulare County Office of Education is hosting a school violence prevention conference led by school threat expert John Van Dreal.

School threat expert and psychologist John Van Dreal will be returning to Tulare County for a two-day conference to teach school district personnel how to recognize and prevent school violence. The conference will be the continuation of a school violence prevention conference Van Dreal taught back in February. It will be held on Sept. 7 and 8 in the Tulare County Office of Education’s (TCOE) Redwood Conference Center.

“We determined that this was crucial information that we need to make available to our districts,” TCOE’s CHOICES School Safety Program Manager Tony Cavanaugh said. 

Van Dreal teaches around the nation. The material he uses is based on the Behavioral Threat Assessment (BTA) guide derived from the Salem-Keizer Cascade Model he created. The model is a school violence prevention plan and guideline that has two levels. His focus is to prevent violence, intruders and school shootings.

During level 1, which Van Dreal taught Tulare County districts in February, school personnel learned to recognize warning signs in students that may become violent toward others or cause harm to themselves. Level 1 protocols call for increased supervision of at-risk students. 

The Level 2 conference that Van Dreal will teach in September is a continuation of the first level, but teaches how to handle a student that has planned to or has become violent to others or themselves. Level 2 protocols call for law enforcement, social workers and possibly legal action.

“It’s important that both members of level one and level two to communicate and work together,” Cavanagh said. “If something happens at school, say on a Friday, then it’d be important and beneficial for these agencies that may come across this kid on Saturday or Sunday to know what’s going on.”

Cavanaugh said the recent school shootings in Uvalde and other places were not the reason TCOE began this training, but it was actually something that TCOE had sought to implement five years ago after CHOICES program director Frank Silveira attended one of Van Dreal’s training sessions.

“We were already going in this direction before Uvalde ever happened,” Cavanaugh said.

The upcoming conference is $125 per person and is only available to those who attended the level 1 conference. For districts that were unable to attend the first training conference, the CHOICES program led by Cavanaguh provides this training as well.

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