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Idaho officials recommend ways to prevent school shootings

September 28, 2021 GMT

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Schools should set up confidential tip lines that can be used by students and others to report concerning behavior as a way to prevent school shootings, a report reviewing an eastern Idaho school shooting said.

That’s one of 29 recommendations in the report released Monday by the Idaho State Board of Education following a school shooting at Rigby Middle School last May.

Authorities said a sixth grade girl injured two other students and a custodian after pulling a handgun from her backpack and firing multiple rounds inside and outside the school. She was ultimately disarmed by a teacher.

The report said students saw behavioral changes in the accused attacker, but that didn’t come to light until after the shooting.

The report, made by the School Safety and Security Program, noted that the behavior change was not apparent to school staff because the girl was in her first year at Rigby Middle School after moving up from elementary school.

“This was a traumatic experience for everyone involved and we learned some valuable lessons from the interviews that we hope will help prevent future acts of violence,” School Safety and Security Program Manager Mike Munger said in a statement.

The same school had another incident last week when authorities said a 13-year-old girl brought a gun to school, but was disarmed by a school resource officer in the bathroom, and no one was injured.

Immediately after that incident, Jefferson School District Superintendent Chad Martin banned backpacks at two middle schools and two high schools.

The report on Monday involving the May shooting also recommended putting in place a social media threat detection system for schools by working with the Idaho State Police Fusion Center, which gathers, analyzes and warns of potential violent acts.

The report noted social media is often used by potential attackers to communicate their intentions. It said that several students saw concerning social media posts by the accused attacker, but didn’t report that information before the May attack.

Another recommendation is that all schools develop a way to receive and evaluate behavioral threat information.

Many of the recommendations involve responding to an active shooting to reduce casualties, and include training staff in “situational awareness and tactical decision-making.”

The report recommends that schools develop and practice lockdown procedures at least annually and in coordination with emergency responders.

Recommendations also included clearly communicating a potential threat and lockdown, and potentially changing the alert for a lockdown to simply repeating “lockdown” rather than the “lockdown, locks, lights, out of sight” used during the May shooting.

The report noted that, during and after the shooting, school telephones were not effective because of the high call volume. The report recommended districts use multiple ways to communicate, including texts and email.

The report also made recommendations on reuniting students with parents following an emergency.

“The original plan called for (Rigby Middle School) staff to have a much larger role in reunification, but it was clear from the outset they did not have the capacity to engage in the reunification process in the immediate aftermath of the attack,” the report said.

The report was presented to the Idaho School Safety and Security Advisory Board comprised of public school officials, lawmakers, law enforcement and emergency response workers, and parents and teachers.