Safe Schools Initiative – Assessing Threats of Extremist Violence
by Emily Hammer, MSW 2018
I attended the 14th Annual Safe Schools Initiative Seminar Series, put on by the Alberti Center for Bullying Abuse Prevention at the University at Buffalo in April. It was very informative and relevant to my first year MSW field placement at Buffalo Public School 198, International Prep.
The first half of the morning consisted of a fascinating presentation by the FBI Office of Buffalo, discussing signs of students who may be lured into violent extremist practices. My key takeaway? There is no single profile. Any student can be enticed into various extremist practices, regardless of race, class, ethnicity, gender identity, etc. We should never judge a threat solely by outward appearance, because research shows that student profiles who fall prey to violent extremism are so diverse.
I realized that we often forget that these threats occur in our own backyards. We learned that the media make the threats seem far away– in a different city, state, or country, or in a group different from that of our normal day-to-day ones– until it happens at home. Then it becomes real. The FBI Buffalo Field Office cited examples of extremist incidents as recent as one week before the seminar presentation. These occurred in both the Buffalo and Rochester areas. The incidents involved teenagers and young adults who were preparing to fly to Syria to engage in warfare; these young people attempted to influence their friends to do the same.