L.A. school threat hotline gets 30-40 calls a day
(CBS News) LOS ANGELES - After the massacre on the Virginia Tech campus in 2007, the Los Angeles Police Department embarked on a program to try to identify students who might pose a threat to their classmates and to deal with them before they act.
After the episode in Florida, CBS News went to see how the L.A. program was going.
Tuesday morning, psychologist Tony Beliz met with his team at the Los Angeles County Mental Health Department.
Every Tuesday they review a list of students identified by area schools as potential threats. Teachers and principals contact this call center when they have a student they view as a danger to themselves or others.
"We average on a daily basis 30 to 40 referrals to our team," Beliz said. "That's a fair amount of referrals."
Beliz runs the School Threat Assessment and Response Team (START). It coordinates school officials, mental health experts, and law enforcement.
"We will do a comprehensive threat assessment for every person who is referred to us. when we interview the child we look at three things: is there a wish to die? is there a wish to kill? And is there a wish to be killed?" he said.
The interviews have led to the confiscation of weapons. Students are given counseling and sometimes hospitalized for evaluation.
"We had an 8-year-old child who expressed a desire to go to school and shoot his classroom with an AK-47," Beliz said. "Eight years old. and you begin to think how possible is that? Well, in this particular case, it was fairly possible."
Just hours after the shooting in Newtown, the threat team checked in with students considered to be the highest risks. There are 50 of them.
Beliz said the more school shooting there are and the more attention shooters are getting, the higher the risk of similar crimes.
"We do find a number of kids who are fascinated with prior shootings and how they might do it better," Beliz said.
Beliz says he believes the program has headed off violent attacks in several cases. Their other goal is to help the student stay in school and graduate -- The fear is that students who are kicked out without getting help become more isolated and violent.
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