L.A. Program Intervenes With Troubled Students Seen as Violence Risks


The New York Times profiles Tony Beliz, who oversees the School Threat Assessment Response Team in Los Angeles, one of the most intensive efforts in the nation to identify the potential for school violence and take steps to prevent it. The program, an unusual collaboration involving county mental health professionals, law enforcement agencies and schools, was developed by the Los Angeles Police Department in 2007, after the shooting rampage at Virginia Tech University, and was taken countywide in 2009 by Beliz, a deputy director of the mental health department.

Each day, several dozen calls come in to the program's dispatch center from principals, counselors, school security officers or parents worried about students who have talked about suicide, exhibited bizarre behavior or made outright threats. Beliz’s team visits the student’s school and home to assess the risk. Many law enforcement and mental health experts believe that developing comprehensive approaches to prevention is as important as firearms regulation. In many cases, they note, the perpetrators of such violence are troubled young people who have signaled their distress to others and who might have been stopped had they received appropriate help.

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