Don Shomette

People are the Prize


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Visit Your Feeder Schools…Now!

(Free PowerPoint with Instructional Video)

There’s a trend that I find when I do school vulnerability assessments. Namely, that there are two specific grades in a school district where the students consistently report that they feel the most isolated, have the least amount of friends, and can’t name a single teacher that they would go to if they had a personal problem. In short, these two grade levels are the most disconnected with the least amount of relationships. Any guesses as to which two grades?

6th graders and 9th graders.

Why these two groups of students?

The reason is simple. Six graders and ninth graders are the newest people in the building and they’ve had the least amount of time to develop relationships. It’s not that the teachers and staff members don’t care and are not capable of developing relationships. They do and they can. We know this for a fact because the students who are one grade higher (7th and 10th graders) consistently report that they do feel connected, have many friends, and can name at least one teacher that they would go to (or have already gone to) when they’ve needed help with a personal problem.
This information tells us three things:

  1. We’re good at developing relationships with students.
  2. There’s a natural order to it and it takes time.
  3. There’s two grades that need special attention.

So, what can we do to fix this and with the end of the school year so close should we even try?

Absolutely, since now is the best time precisely because it is the end of the school year and the best way to accomplish this is to visit your feeder schools and begin to develop that relationship now!

Visiting your feeder schools is really easy, pays a huge dividend, and I’ll give you everything you need including a PowerPoint presentation and instructional video and anything else you need to be successful.

Just go down to your elementary and middle schools and visit your 5th and 8th graders before the year ends. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. Just 20-25 minutes with each class (or all together in the auditorium) with you delivering the same positive message—I’m looking forward to you joining us, I’m there to help you to be successful, and you’re not alone because you know me now and I’ll be there for you.

Go individually or create a team of SRO’s, principals, counselors, Deans of Students, or other school leaders. Some might say, “We do this at student orientation,” but it’s not the same thing. It is a requirement that everyone attend student orientation, including the adults. There is no obligation to visit the students moving up to your school and the students know it…and this is exactly why it’s so effective.

There’s also an added benefit of visiting your feeder schools at the end of the year and one I learned firsthand. Students who are connected to each other as well as to their school are far more likely to follow the established rules and to stay out of trouble.

Before I began to visit my feeder schools, our school was plagued with about 80 fights each year and nearly all of them involved sixth graders. While these fights were not terrible, they did chew up my time, wear on my patience, and stop me from being able to focus on positive and proactive initiatives. After I began visiting my feeder schools, my fights dropped down to approximately 4 a year and suddenly I had more time and most importantly to me, I enjoyed my ‘kids’, my school, and my job more. My life was better.

But like everything that is worth accomplishing, it comes with a tradeoff.

I had to trade some of my time at the end of each school year and give it to my rising 6th graders. I had to leave my building and visit every elementary school in my district. And when I was there, I had to be fully present and completely engaged and that takes time, commitment, and consistency…the same things needed to develop a relationship.

If you do this, if you trade some of your time now, I guarantee you that what you gain in return next year will far exceed your output…and I’ll help you make it easier!

To learn more about how it all works, watch this video.

For a demonstration of the PowerPoint, watch this video.

To get copy of the PowerPoint, please sign up on the PEOPLE ARE THE PRIZE

PowerPoint is only available for police and school personnel (please use your professional email when signing up).


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Do You Think This is a Threat?

is-this-a-threat-image

I’m asked this question a lot from police officers, superintendents, principals, and parents who want help in determining if a person has made a threat. I have never turned anyone down and I’ve never charged a fee for helping. Why do I tell you this? So maybe you’ll feel more comfortable reaching out for ‘another set of eyes’ when and if you’re faced with scary behavior.

So please call or email if you’re concerned and feel as if you could use some extra help. And for the record, you’re not bugging me—not at all.

Now, how do we know when someone has made a threat?

Very simple. A threat is any expression to do harm. The key word here is any….any expression to do harm which can come in the form of words, a look, gesture, drawing, song, story, poem, disturbing behavior such as building bombs, stockpiling weapons, or researching school attacks, mass murderers, how to have sex with a corpse (yes, one school attacker did so), visiting the sites of other school attacks like Columbine High School (yes, one would-be attacker did so), and watching men be hurt and sexually abused by women (yes, one attacker watched this type of movie before his attack).

And…get ready for it…the attacker can do absolutely nothing discernable and still make a threat.

How can that be?

Our minds are supercomputers that are capable of perceiving on the subconscious level what our eyes miss on the conscious level. We call it a ‘gut feeling’ and it’s our body’s way of letting us know that threatening behaviors are present and while we may not be able to fully explain why we feel the way we do, we just know that we’re not safe.

Listen to your gut feelings and those of your teachers, students, and staff members. If you ever want to see the great good that can come from investigating a gut feeling, read how a teacher and her gut feeling saved lots of lives.

If right about now you’re thinking that this sounds confusing, it’s not. Let’s go back to the beginning for one second.

A threat is any expression to do harm.

Don’t get hung on this first step of discernment. If you’re worried, concerned, frightened, or troubled by a disturbing behavior in any way—treat it as a threat and begin a human threat assessment. Your findings in your threat assessment will clarify (and usually pretty quickly) if the person truly poses a threat to themselves or others and if they’re willing to use violence to meet their need.

That’s what we really need to know! Not if they made a threat, but do they pose a threat.

In my experience, schools that have a threat assessment team and the ability to assess a threat are actually much more relaxed and less anxious when an expression to do harm is observed or suspected. They don’t agonize over whether or not there was a threat, but move quickly to determine if the person poses a threat. This is really what we must know and we’re only going to know it by conducting a comprehensive, accurate, and impartial human threat assessment.

So, jump right in there and begin your threat assessment.

One quick reminder – when you do notice an expression to do harm, do not first think punishment and consequences. Punishment is given for breaking the rules and consequences are the natural result of wrong behavior. Neither of these are the best way to prevent violence in the long term. That doesn’t mean that they cannot be useful tools. Incarceration and required mental evaluation can be useful in stabilizing a dangerous situation as well as mandating additional and needed services for the person.

Instead, first think intervention and management. Intervene in the person’s life to prevent the violence and manage the threat (person) in order to lower the risk level. This is our best, long term solution for making everyone safer.

>>> If you liked the information in this article, then you’ll like the class School Threat Assessments which gives you the skills and ability to not only determine if someone has made a threat, but if they pose a threat.

To learn more about the class go here and to find a class in your area, click on this link. Please email or call if you’d like to host a class and receive free seats for the training.