Learning with The Village People
One of the agreements that the school principal and I have is that when one of us is out ‘learning’ , the other manages the building and, unless it is a critical incident, we leave the other to learn in peace. It helps that we both trust each other greatly and learn from one another. I admit, it’s a treat when I have the chance to turn off my iPhone and spend a day or two learning away from the hurly-burly of the school, I also loved the fact that I was able to eat lunch… sitting down…with other adults.
As a result, I’ve spent the past few days completing some training on the school-based Violence Risk Threat Assessment protocol developed under the guidance of Kevin Cameron and the fine folks at the Canadian Centre for Threat Assessment. The training sessions brought me many insights and helped me to deepen my existing understandings on how schools can make a difference for children and, in a community.
Violence-Risk Threat Assessment (V-TRA) is a multi-disciplinary protocol that is followed to provide a structure for schools and school systems to assess and respond to high-risk student behaviours . The protocol requires that, when conducting the Threat Assessment process a team is struck that includes professionals from the school, law enforcement, mental health and community agency sectors. It is the focus on gathering information from multiple sources that truly reflects the essence of the African proverb on the need for the whole village to raise a child.
The best part about the training was the make up of the group. Police officers, social workers and psychologists mingled with the teachers, Child Youth Workers and school administrators to form a dynamic learning community. Each of us there because we have a vested, common interest in the well being of the children and families we work alongside.
We had the chance to participate in case studies that were drawn from incidents of actual school violence, including the Columbine school shooting incident from the spring of 1999. What is known to us in the aftermath of this, and other school shooting events, and what forms the foundation of V-TRA, is that ample evidence of the intent of the perpetrators was available leading up to the shootings, but no one made an attempt to connect the dots and intervene. As a result, they followed a path of justification that led to the events of that April day.
Kevin Cameron’s work and leadership in this area provides a framework that guides my thoughts and my actions. I know that effective, safe schools are measurable, palpable and visible. Effective schools radiate a sense of openness and support two-way communication. They reflect strong, shared core values and beliefs about inclusion and respect for the rights and dignity of all. I know that, as the vice principal, I must model these traits through my actions and words, and I’m required to challenge all, staff, students and parents, to model them as well. I am beginning to now know, how important our partners in the field of community service are and why I need them in my school, more. More often, for more reasons, and to do more work alongside the educators in support of our children.
I’m happy to have had the chance to learn more about the threat assessment process. A good friend of mine reminds me often that “schools can either add risk to kids, or take it away.” The V-TRA protocol places an emphasis on knowing our students, inviting and involving others who know our students and acting upon what we know to reduce risk and ensure safety.
It takes a whole village, and I’m proud to be one of the village people.