LA County

Violence Intervention in LA County Schools

Amidst all the news of mass shootings, it is important to be aware and alert of any early warning signs in youth.

More help is being sought for kids or teenagers who show signs they may become violent.

A program in LA county designed to intervene in schools is expanding and mental health professionals are making an effort to identify and block any potential danger.

Miriam Brown director of the LA county department of mental health "Start" program, describes one student of concern as "very fascinated with columbine, with some of the more recent shootings, searching the internet doing you know all he can in order to gather information."

Brown describes the young man, a current student at a local school district in LA county where her team, along with the support from law enforcement, stepped in to stop a potential threat.

She says they want to "really work with him and make sure he really doesn't go through this path and put anyone at risk at the school or his community."

This unique county-wide program called "school threat assessment response team" or "start," has been around for several years, but supervisors Kathryn Barger and Janice Hahn pushed for more action as calls of potential threats went up.

"We have seen an increase in calls shortly after the shooting in parkland," Brown said. "This past fiscal year which covers '18-'19 we received over 300 referrals."

Brown says that number is a spike of over 140 referrals in the past year, and now, the "start" team has more than doubled to 42 clinicians from the LA county department of mental health.

Parents, teachers, and others are urged to reach out and report any and all behavior if a person become fascinated by violence, or mass shootings, and help them find alternatives.

"A lot of these young kids or adults are very talented individuals who really have a lot to offer to society. we have definitely seen some kids that we have maintained contact and they have been successful," Brown says.

However, it is necessary to step in and say something, Brown says if grades start to suffer, a kid becomes more isolated than usual, search time online increases or the subjects they're looking at concern you, that's the time to speak out.

Teachers, school administrators, school counselors, fellow students, or parents can call START's 24/7 phone line 1-800-854-7771 with information about a possible threat or concerning behavior. For more information about the START program, visit

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