A protocol that has been in place in the southwest for a decade has recently been renewed by local school districts and other agencies to help strengthen proactive measures to mitigate violence.

The Violence Threat Risk Assessment (VTRA) Protocol is a collaboration between the Chinook School Division, Holy Trinity Catholic School Division schools in the southwest, and Great Plains College in Swift Current along with Saskatchewan Health Authority – Mental Health and Addiction Services, local RCMP, Ministry of Social Services and Ministry of Justice.

Ken Slade, student services coordinator with Chinook, explained that together they share information, collect data, and collaborate about individuals of concern who pose a risk for violence towards themselves or others.

"All of the schools and our community partners believe that violence prevention in our schools and neighborhoods is a shared responsibility," he said. "And so, we all work together to promote and maintain safety and strive to prevent violence."

Preventing incidents of violence is at the core of the VTRA Protocol; the goal of early intervention is to reduce and manage school violence.

Frontline school staff including administrators, counselors, and teachers are trained in how to identify worrisome behaviour so it can be addressed before escalating. 

However, if there is an instance of high-risk behaviour, the protocol is in place to be enacted. Examples of high-risk are threats of serious violence or violence with intent to kill, possession of weapons, bomb threats or fire setting. 

"What I'm proudest of is that we have support in the title of our protocol," Slade said. "Because that's really what it is, we're meant to support the individual of concern, if they're making some threatening behavior, we want to come up with the appropriate intervention... We're trauma informed and we have a mental health background as well."

The main adjustments made to the VTRA Protocol is a softening of language and reflecting current scientific research from experts, including medical and mental health professionals, law enforcement and specialists in the field of threat management. 

"The key I think is the relationships here in the southwest," he added. "We really have a good model and others have come to see how things work here. But we really do, and it has to do with the people in this community and that serve the whole area."