DALLAS (CBSNewsTexas.com) - Texas schools received more than 77,000 threats last year, according to data collected by the Texas Education Agency (T.E.A.). That's a threat for every minute Texas students were in class.
Some threats turned out to be hoaxes but school officials said each one had to be taken seriously.
Last year, according to T.E.A. data, less than 6% of reported threats received by schools resulted in action taken by law enforcement, while nearly 30% resulted in a referral for mental health and counseling support.
While threats of school shootings are what often comes to mind, less than half of all reported threats (34%) were for threat of violence toward others. A larger percentage (37%) were for threats of self-harm, according to the state data.
Texas schools are required to have designated threat assessment teams in charge of determining how to respond to each threat. These teams are supposed to include members with a wide range of expertise from mental health to special education to law enforcement. Team members are also supposed to have completed the state's behavioral threat assessment training course.
However, a CBS News Texas I-Team data investigation found hundreds of schools lacked the training and expertise required.
The I-Team analyzed Safe and Supportive Schools Program (SSSP) data for the 2022-23 school year of the more than 8,000 K-12 public schools in Texas.
According to the data obtained from the T.E.A., more than 1,400 schools reported having no mental health expert on their threat assessment team. More than 800 schools reported not having a single member on the team last year that completed the state's threat assessment training course.
Andrew Hairston, the education justice director for the non-profit Texas Appleseed, said while threat assessments are well-intentioned, without proper training they could end up doing more harm to some students accused of making a threat as well as to some students who report a threat.
"If you don't have the proper training in place, it can backfire on young people who are trying in earnest to do what the district is telling them to do and then they end up with disciplinary records themselves," he said.
According to the state data, dozens of schools in Dallas, Fort Worth, and Arlington reported none of their campus threat assessment team members having earned the state's threat assessment training certification.
These districts told the I-Team, despite not having completed the state's training course, all team members were trained in threat assessment protocols by district staff.
A Dallas ISD official said most campus teams that reported not having completed the state's threat assessment training last year either completed the certificate requirement over the summer or have trainings scheduled for September.
An Arlington ISD school official said its district developed its own threat assessment training before the state required it. Now that the state requires the training, the district is working to get team members signed up.
Meanwhile, a Fort Worth ISD school official told the I-Team its district has trained all administrative staff and student support service staff on its internal risk and threat assessment protocols and is identifying additional staff who will be required to complete the state's threat assessment training.
Wylie ISD says its threat assessment team "100%" makes students safer
Last December, according to Wylie police, a student at Wylie High School took a pen, pointed it like a gun, and asked a female student if he should "bring one tomorrow and shoot her".
The district's threat assessment team was alerted within minutes of the incident and the police arrested the 15-year-old student without incident.
The school's threat assessment team, led by Assistant Superintendent Scott Winn, then began making plans for when that student eventually returns to school.
"We have to figure out how we are going to help this student long-term in our school system," Winn explained.
Winn said by developing a specific plan for each case, which could include counseling support and additional security measures, the district's threat assessment team ensures no reported threat is overlooked.
The assistant superintendent said, based on student surveys, nearly 95% of Wylie students reported having a staff member they could trust and confide in. He said this is key in ensuring students feel comfortable with reporting concerning behavior.
"I would say 100% our threat assessment team makes our students feel safer," Winn said. "It also makes our parents understand that their students are safe and our staff as well."
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