Secret Service wants students to report friends showing ‘concerning’ behaviors: It isn’t ‘snitching’

Secret Service wants students to report friends showing ‘concerning’ behaviors: It isn’t ‘snitching’
A new set of Secret Service guidelines for school safety suggests a system be in place for students to report classmates who exhibit “concerning” behaviors, and could commit violence. (jackethead/Getty Images)

Schools should encourage students to turn in classmates who exhibit “concerning” behaviors, according to a new set of school violence prevention guidelines released Thursday by the U.S. Secret Service.

But it shouldn’t be considered “snitching,” according to the report.

The recommendations in the 32-page report, “Enhancing School Safety Using a Threat Assessment Model,” is partly a response to the mass killings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas.

Among other things, the report suggests training students, parents, teachers, and other staff members so they can recognize threatening behaviors and learn how to report them.

Is this considered ‘snitching?’

Students should be taught that reporting suspect behavior is not considered “snitching” the report states.

“Snitching is informing on someone for personal gain, here students are encouraged to come forward when they are worried about a friend who is struggling, or when they are trying to keep someone from getting hurt,” according to the guidelines. “Remind students that if they are concerned about a classmate or friend, they need to keep speaking out until that person gets the help they need.”

The guide cautions that there is no composite profile for student attackers. Some do well in school and others do not, for example, according to the report. Some were loners, while others were well-liked and popular.

A series of steps are recommended including the development of a multidisciplinary threat assessment team, a definition of “concerning” behaviors and establishing a central reporting system such as a school website, an email address, a phone number or a phone app, for example.

What is considered concerning behavior?

Schools are also urged to develop definitions for concerning behavior and a process for documenting them. One potentially concerning behavior is an “inappropriate” interest in weapons, school attacks, or other forms of violence.

Schools should also keep tabs on whether the student has been under a lot of stress or had a series of recent losses and challenges, the guide suggests. Other considerations are whether the student has a trusting relationship with an adult at the school and whether the student feels emotionally connected to other students.

“The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting tragedy served as the impetus to go beyond our past work and go in depth regarding the how: how do we solve this epidemic?” Secret Service Director R. D. Alles said. “The report truly is an operational guide, and I am confident that if embraced and followed by our nation’s communities and schools, we will together reduce the occurrence of violence and the tragic loss of life.”