Risk Management Teams at the Ready


Some information on what led to a recent shooting on a Michigan high school campus has been released by that state’s authorities. Although the investigation continues on who knew what when, it is worth looking at how Glendale Unified School District investigates, analyzes and responds to possible threats to its schools.

Due to the ongoing investigation of the Michigan school shooting, and that it occurred in another state under a different set of rules and guidelines, GUSD cannot comment specifically about how the district would handle this same situation; however, its representatives are able to speak in general terms of how it has approached possible threats.

GUSD has a threat assessment team that is activated anytime there are students who indicate they may self-harm or may harm others at the school, said Hagop Eulmessekian, director of Student Support Services at GUSD. The assessment team includes trained individuals like school psychologists and school resource officers, and sometimes a medical evaluation team member from the County of Los Angeles.

Students can show their negative, and at times dangerous, intent in a number of ways.

“Sometimes there is an online chat, a lot of times there are notes or messages that they leave [for someone to find],” Eulmessekian said. “We immediately bring the student in for threat assessment.”

Students being evaluated can fall into one of three categories; either the team finds there is no risk, moderate risk or high risk. Regardless of risk level, the assessment team always contacts parents/guardians of an evaluated student. If it is found that a student is at high risk, that student is held on a psychological hold for at least 72 hours. In addition, the team speaks to the parents, and student, about access to weapons. Backpacks and lockers are searched and “often times” members of the team will go to the home to make certain any weapons are secured.

“Owning guns is a right but leaving them where people in the house have access is against the law,” Eulmessekian said.

SB172, “firearms,” which was authored by Sen. Anthony Portantino, makes it “a crime in California to keep a loaded or unloaded firearm in the home of a minor without properly storing and locking the firearm with a gun safe or by using a firearm safety device.” Eulmessekian said that paperwork given to parents at the beginning of each school year includes the form “Information for Parents/Guardians and Students,” which includes this information and requests parents to sign that they have read and understand this law.

The form in part states, “We are all aware of incidents of self-harm or gun violence in our surrounding communities and across the nation. In California each year an average of 27 children under the age of 18 die by suicide using a gun. In a majority of these gun-related incidents, the minor gained access to a lawfully purchased gun from their residence or the residence of a relative [lawcenter.giffords.org].” 

The statement continues as to the importance of properly and safely storing guns in a home where children are likely to be present.

The district’s risk assessment team receives information about students from teachers, mentors and other students. It may get information from statements students made to others or in their writings or posts on social media but Eulmessekian said parent involvement is the most important proactive way in to prevent violent behavior by a student.

“Parents need to have an active role in their student’s social media [accounts],” Eulmessekian said as an example of one way parents can oversee information. He added many times school officials find that parents did not know what their child was posting on social media or what social media accounts they are even on or follow.

A rumor last week that the social media platform TikTok had a video that promoted school violence prompted schools across the nation to take precautions that included closing campuses or adding extra patrols. And although after investigating the rumor was found not to be true, it was still something districts, including Glendale, did not take lightly. GUSD had extra patrols around schools due to the rumor.

Eulmessekian added it is important for parents to understand what their child is doing online.

“That was the number one recommendation from [law enforcement],” he added.

In a webinar that was sponsored by the district last year during the COVID shutdown, school resource officers from Glendale police stressed how important it was for parents to follow their children on social media. In addition to possibly discovering any signs of students considering endangering themselves or others, parents could also find signs of cyber bullying.

Bottom line: It truly does take a village for school populations to stay safe. Keeping communication open among school administrators, teachers, parents and students is key.