Arlington ISD, police team up to form assessment program

Arlington ISD and the Arlington Police Department announced a partnership to help prevent school shootings. It's a program the district and police say has been more than a year in the making.

It's a "comprehensive threat assessment plan" to identify at-risk students who may pose a danger to themselves or others. The district hopes the program will be a model for other districts that are now required to develop similar programs under a new state law.

Before Governor Greg Abbott signed into law school safety legislation this summer, Arlington ISD and Arlington police had already been working on a comprehensive school threat assessment program.

Teachers, parents and other students will act as eyes and ears. A team led by a licensed social worker will help determine the best course of action.

It’s the 11th largest district in Texas. And with 60,000 students, Arlington ISD is teaming up with the Arlington Police Department to make classrooms safe for each child.

Superintendent Marcelo Cavazos says the district and police created the Multidisciplinary Threat Assessment Team aimed at identifying at-risk students before they become a threat to the public.

“Sometimes, you have adolescents or you have kids or you have teens in the school setting. They’re not really committing a criminal offense, but they’re exhibiting behaviors that are concerning,” Arlington Police Lt. Chris Cook said.

That includes anything from a troubling social media post to acting out in school.

Cavazos says it starts with people who see the students every day.

“They’re able to report that to the school level officials, and a team then intervenes,” he said.

The assessment team is made up of school resource officers, the supervising police lieutenant, district administrators and a full-time licensed social worker.

“You could have a situation where you may have 15 or 20 people really looking at a particular case,” Cook said.

Once a student is identified and referred to the assessment team, the team will determine the level of risk and figure out a plan of action.

“It could be as simple as meeting with the adolescent. It could be providing them resources,” Cook said. “Maybe bringing the parents in, and so we envision this to be wide-ranging.”

In June, Governor Abbott signed school safety legislation that was sparked by the mass shooting at Santa Fe High School, near Houston, in May 2018. Part of that law requires every Texas school district to create threat assessment programs.

Some of the funding for Arlington’s program was granted by the U.S. Department of Justice.