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Special Event

FBI Holds News Conference on School Violence Prevention

Aired September 6, 2000 - 1:00 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Just in time for the start of the new school year, the FBI is giving the nation's educators a lesson in spotting potentially violent students. An FBI news conference is getting under way now in Washington on a study of the school violence that we've all experienced and how to prevent it from happening in the future.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

TOM PICKARD, FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR: ... educators, doctors and other experts to provide a systematic process for threat assessment and intervention, relating that. Once a threat is made, having a fair, rational and standardized method of evaluating and responding to threats is critically important.

The use of this assessment intervention model will help school authorities identify and deal with high risk threats that are our major concern, and also to respond to less serious threats in a measured way.

This monograph is the result of the work started in 1998 by the FBI's National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime. This is a specialized group of FBI agents and support employees who have provided threat assessment in a wide range of violent crime cases for over two decades.

Working with educators, doctors and other experts, it conducted a review of 18 actual school shootings and foiled attempts. It is also the result of a July 1999 school shooting and threat assessment symposium conducted in Leesburg, Virginia.

This monograph is not a profile of the school shooter or a checklist of the danger signs pointed to the next adolescent who will bring lethal violence to a school. This monograph is offered in the hope that it may help refine and strengthen efforts by school administrators and law enforcement officials across the country who are developing policies and procedures for dealing with threats or acts of violence in our school.

Our goal is to work with educators, parents and law enforcement officials to prevent violence in our schools.

I would now like to introduce the moderator of this panel we've put together, Larry Ankrom of the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime, who will introduce the full panel -- Larry.

LARRY ANKROM, FBI UNIT CHIEF, BEHAVIOR ANALYSIS: Thank you, Mr. Pickard.

It's my pleasure and honor today to introduce this distinguished panel of educators, mental health professionals and FBI agents who've dedicated a great deal of time and effort and expertise to the school monograph. I think it's a collection of folks that allow us to see the multidisciplinary approach that we tried to take in this monograph.

This panel -- these panel members also participated and helped in a meaningful way with the school shooting conference that took place in July of last year where we brought in educators, teachers, administrators, law enforcement personnel, investigators, prosecutors, and experts in a wide range of adolescent behavior, social and school dynamics and mental health areas, and suicide as well.

I think the result that we have from this monograph is a guide, a tool for the schools to use that will allow them to identify a threat, assess the threat, and then apply the appropriate intervention strategy. We all recognize that this is a very significant problem that's going to take some time to get all the answers, and we still have more work to do.

To my right, I'd like to introduce Dr. Dewey Cornell. He's a clinical psychologist and professor of education in the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. Dr. Cornell would like to make a comment.

DR. DEWEY CORNELL, CLINICAL & FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGY, UNIV. OF VIRGINIA: This report begins with a quotation by H.L. Mencken: "For every problem, there is a solution which is simple, neat and wrong." Fortunately, this report steers us clear of simple solutions that are wrong. The report focuses on facts rather than fears, and offers realistic responses to complex problems.

The tremendous publicity given to some of the tragic school shooting in the past few years triggered widespread fears that our schools were not safe, when in fact our children are safer at school than they are at home. Violent crime by young people, including homicide, is steadily declining in the United States. Many school programs that are designed to prevent bullying and violence and to resolve conflicts are working. We must not lose sight of the progress we are making and we must continue these successful efforts.

However, the publicized school shootings also stimulated a national wave of student threats: oral threats, bomb threats, hit lists, and even Internet threats. The FBI report tells us that all threats must be taken seriously and investigated carefully, but that all threats are not the same and do not require the same level of intervention.

Most students who make such thoughtless and foolish statements do not pose a risk of physical injury to others. We must respond to such students with discipline, education and counseling, but rarely is it necessary to prosecute them as criminals.

Let me close by emphasizing that this report represents a truly multidisciplinary, cooperative effort that tries to integrate and balance the perspectives of law enforcement, education and mental health. It now remains for us to field test these threat assessment recommendations and to develop appropriate interventions to address the mental health needs of the students involved.

Thank you.

WATERS: Dr. Dewey Cornell, part of the panel gathered in Washington to release what's called a monograph put together by the FBI and other behaviorists, school officials and law enforcement officials to help school and law enforcement people in communities develop methods for dealing with these threats and preventing violence in the future.

This is an offshoot of a conference that was held in July of last year and offers school and local officials an opportunity to identify threats, assess the threat, and a recommended intervention strategy to prevent future violence.

We will continue to monitor that event in Washington and have full report on the outcome of that FBI study throughout the day here on CNN.

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