The most important aspect of reporting is following up. The initial assessment and meeting with the individual who has been brought to the threat assessment team’s attention through TIPS or otherwise is not the end of the process. The team follows up with those individuals throughout their time at the community college. Individuals can refuse to meet with a counselor, but MacDonald says that, so far, no one has refused to attend a meeting. “And we’ve recently developed memorandums of agreement with our local mental health service boards so that they are a second tier of access for us, because we can’t really provide mental health services at a community college. We just don’t have the assets,” MacDonald explains. “But now we have that avenue so that we can get them advanced care, and it’s really working out well for us.”
MacDonald says he thinks TIPS has been an effective method for enabling reports of suspicious activity on campus, and Thomas Nelson plans to continue to educate faculty, staff, and students about how to use it. One way is by mentioning the TIPS program and where to find it in literature and on cards given to students when they come to any office, such as financial aid, he says. “And they are diligent about handing those out. In fact, I’m due to print up another batch.”
Of course, where the threat is immediate, such as a shooter on campus scenario, the community is encouraged to report this directly to the police, but if the report comes in through the TIPS line, the police are notified as soon as the report is received.
The school had received more than 50 reports on the TIPS line as of August 21, 2013, which covers a period of about 15 months since launch. A majority of those incidents were reports of concern for students’ well-being and emotional health, although some were reports of suspicious activity, MacDonald says. “It is much more than what we were receiving under the original program that IT had developed for us,” explains MacDonald. But he attributes the increase to a rise in awareness, rather than a heightened risk environment. “I think we’re seeing an increase in reporting, not necessarily an increase in incidents.” n
(For more information: Rick Shaw, president and founder, Awareity, Inc.; phone: 402/730-0090; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.)