Combining forces for school safety

By Matt Porter

August 9, 2013 Updated Aug 9, 2013 at 6:32 PM EDT

Syracuse, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Binghamton University teamed up with Upstate University Medical Center to hold a conference on understanding and preventing school violence.

The conference was organized after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.

Mary Muscari, a professor at BU's Decker School of Nursing, said the attention on school violence and bullying needs to carry on beyond the extreme.

"School violence is not just about shootings, but that's the time we tend to think of it more often," Muscari said.

James Knoll, a psychiatrist at Upstate, organized the conference and said people aren't often prepared to deal with violent situations.

"If they're being honest, they will say afterwards that none of them expected it to happen," Knoll said.

The meeting consisted of mostly healthcare workers from psychiatrists to school nurses and discussed the pros and cons of different strategies.

Kevin Antshel, a psychology professor at Syracuse University, gave a presentation that described the different common characteristics of potential killers.

But he said you can't focus on just a profile.

"If you adopt a profiling approach," Antshel said, "You begin to add up all these traits individuals have and then you automatically assume they're going to do this, you lead to a lot of false positives."

Instead, healthcare workers were urged to work closely with their partners in school districts.

Schools have the ability to watch children closely in classrooms and on the playground.

"If we continue to exist in silos, you got your medical silo, your school silo, I think a lot of kids like Adam Lanza are going to fall through the cracks," Antshel said.

Muscari, who helped lead the conference, said more cooperation between players involved could help keep schools safer.

"Schools are still a very safe place to be, but they should be even safer," she said.

Many attendees were leaders in their own practices and hospitals and can take what they learned back to their communities all across the state.