Push to streamline threat reporting systems across school districts

Posted at 5:26 PM, Feb 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-15 17:27:39-05

Educators are considered the best source of information to help prevent a mass school shooting, like the one in Florida.

But a national security expert says they need to do a better job when it comes to having students report disturbing posts online.

Right now, investigators are combing through Nikolas Cruz's social media accounts and several disturbing posts are catching their attention.

We’re also hearing from more former classmates who describe bizarre and violent behavior.

On top of all that, the FBI received two threat reports about him.

So why wasn't all of that enough to prompt preventive action long before Cruz shot and killed 17 people?

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News 5 reached out to school districts in Northeast Ohio to see how they handle online threats.

What we found is every district seems to be taking their own approach. Though most of their strategies are the same, there's a push to create a unified plan to help prevent another school shooting.

"We're doing a great job on the physical security for schools," said Tim Dimoff, national security expert.

Dimoff wants to see the same effort put into school shooting prevention.

"We're not doing a good job with that at all," said Dimoff.

Dimoff said all districts should be on the same page when it comes to students reporting perceived threats.

"The schools that have it and we're getting buy-in in, I doubt very seriously if we'll ever see a problem there to this degree," said Dimoff.

We heard from leaders in a handful of districts on Thursday who said they are constantly working to create a culture where students feel comfortable speaking out.

If they don't want to in person, many districts, like Rocky River, pay for an anonymous tip-line.

The problem, according to Dimoff, is not every district does this. If they do, they struggle to get students interested in the 'see something, say something' campaign.

Dimoff believes that's where a government-funded plan could help.

"Here's the eight things you need to do to engage your students. Also, here's a free 800 confidential, here's the guidelines," said Dimoff.

Dimoff said that it is critical schools shift their focus to gathering information for prevention.

The FBI discovered there is a common denominator to mass shootings. Those who pull the trigger always talk about what they are going to do.

"How disgruntled they were, how upset they were, showed pictures and videos," said Dimoff.

Getting ahead of it can make a difference in what happens next.

"Constantly stay in touch with them to prevent them from going over the edge," said Dimoff.

Another school security expert told News 5 that the best line of defense is a well-trained and alert student body.

Ken Trump, with National School Security and Security Services, said weapons are uncovered at schools by kids who have trusting relationships with adults, not metal detectors.