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Training Helps Lincoln School Resource Officers Learn About Adolescent Mental Health

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 2019
2 pages
This article in the February 2019 issue of TECHBeat explains how a training program that instructs law enforcement officers in managing interactions with individuals experiencing mental health crises was modified for use in Lincoln, Nebraska to train recently hired school resource officers (SROs) in middle schools to recognize and respond appropriately to students whose problem behaviors stem from a mental health disorder.
The training program is called Behavioral Threat Assessment (BETA), which requires 4 days to complete. The first day covers the response to mental health crises. The second day addresses the management of violent behavior that stems from a mental health issue. The third day addresses other problem behaviors that may be rooted in psychological issues, such as substance abuse and bullying. The fourth day is spent on instructing officers in various sources of help and treatment for mental health issues. Joseph Wright, the Director of Security for Lincoln Public Schools, is a former captain with the Lincoln Police Department. He emphasizes the importance of not criminalizing behavior for which students need specialized mental health treatment. An example he uses is the difference between a frustrated autistic child who says he is going to kill the classmates who have upset him and a student who has access to weapons and has engaged in planning an armed attack at school. The policy is to identify behaviors stemming from mental illness and refrain from taking such persons into custody for breaking a law. Instead, they are managed as persons who need appropriate treatment for a mental disorder.

Date Published: February 1, 2019