The Greater Essex District School Board is working to identify students who may resort to violence.

Vickie Komar, the supervisor of social work services for board, said that a protocol used to identify students who may have mental health issues has been in place for six years now.

Staff look for students who may pose a threat to themselves or others.

Kevin Cameron, a board certified expert in traumatic stress with the Canadian Threat Assessment Training Board, provided violent risk assessment training for the staff.

Komar said staff watch for threatening activity and bullying - online or otherwise.

"We take any comments or written statements considered a threat very seriously," Komar said.

When a threat is made, staff assess it and determine whether the student a danger to his or herself or a danger to others.

School administration is notified. It gathers data and may involve parents and friends of the student.

"And the first assumption is that it’s a cry for help," Komar said. "If we’re looking at it as a cry for help we bring our community partners to the table."

The board works with the OPP and local mental health practitioners.

Emergency response team in place

If violence does break out at school, the board has a plan.

Tim Lauzon is the board's health and safety officer. He said, "there really isn't very solid emergency response legislation in place in the province of Ontario."

Staying safe

Public safety officer Tim Lauzon said students should do the following during an emergency:

  • Get out of hallways.
  • Get in a room.
  • Hide.
  • Stay quiet.
  • Call 911.
  • Wait for police.

"Emergency response legislation is specific for municipalities and not school boards," he said.

The board conducts six fire drills a year but emergency response drills aren’t enforced, he said. Although, the province does recommend two emergency response drills each year.

The board does have a flip chart that outlines what safety measures and response to take during a lockdown, bomb threats, natural gas leaks and tornadoes.

The board went to the extreme last spring when it staged an elaborate two-shooter simulation at Leamington High School in an effort to test how well the safety protocols were working.

"It helps us identify weaknesses or areas that are vulnerable. In this case we found a back door that was not secure and we were not aware of," Lauzon said.

Police and school officials also noted the cafeteria doesn't have an emergency exit or a place in which students can hide.

"We learned a number of things, first and foremost that in the aftermath ... we really weren’t prepared for moving [people] after the event and securing the scene and moving them to a secure location to reunite them with loved ones," Lauzon said. "We did not have a reception plan in place. It would have been 1,200 people knocking on doors saying, ‘hi, we’re here.’"

So, user agreements between transportation companies and the Red Cross were signed.

The OPP said it works with all school boards to ensure public safety. There isn't another drill planned for the local public board any time soon.

"All of our officers receive extensive training to respond to any armed threats in or in relation to a school," OPP spokesperson Const. Stephanie Moniz said in an email. "Since we just held a major exercise there are no plans for another one in the immediate future."