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Guest speaker presenting
Lina Alathari, chief of the U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center

A recent school safety training event featured the chief of the U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC), Lina Alathari. In August, the 2022 Hawaiʻi Behavior Intervention/Threat Assessment Team (BITAT) Advanced Annual Training, was presented by University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu in collaboration with host campus Leeward Community College.

The event brought together about 100 participants, who attended in person or virtually from throughout the state and the continental U.S., with the shared goals of identifying, assessing, intervening and managing threats in schools.

“Far too often, communities have been devastated by violence directed at places where we should all feel safe,” Alathari said. “NTAC’s research and training helps to empower communities with information on how to identify and intervene with those who pose a risk of violence to themselves or others. I am grateful to all of our audiences who are committed to this critical work.”

Attendees were a mix of public and private, K–12 and higher education officials, as well as local and federal threat prevention agencies. The guest speakers, all of whom attended in person, included the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Secret Service and more.

“This event represents the beginning of a small portion—focused on schools—of the state’s larger targeted violence and threat prevention strategy,” said event organizer Bev Baligad, director of compliance and chair of the Behavior Intervention Team (BIT) at UH West Oʻahu. “I fully anticipate growing this event in the upcoming years.”

A training tradition

The UH West Oʻahu BIT annual training has been a tradition since the team’s inception in 2017. Since then, UH West Oʻahu has held mandatory annual training in an effort to stay updated on any national and state trends, continue team building, and review and modify its team manual if necessary.

In 2021, UH West Oʻahu extended invites to Leeward CC and Windward CC—other campuses that had also received basic foundational training and that had teams positioned to understand trends that its leaders could then consider for their campus.

The UH West Oʻahu BIT, also referred to as “ECHO Alpha,” serves as the inspiration for successful implementation of BITATs across the state.

The recent training included representatives from all identified ECHO teams: ECHO 1, Kapolei Middle School; ECHO 2, UH Maui College; ECHO 3, Windward CC; ECHO 4 Island Pacific Academy; and ECHO 5 Kauaʻi CC.

“We are not creating a model; we focus solely on building a strong team foundation so that whatever model is chosen by a school, it will be sustainable and strong,” Baligad said. “By helping schools implement strong, knowledgeable and community-connected teams, we believe the state has the capability to make our schools and our ‘ohana safer.”

Read more in Ka Puna O Kaloʻi.

—By Zenaida Serrano Arvman

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