In the light of recent deadly school shootings in the United States, educators, parents, and security experts are looking to technology to help solve the problem. At the forefront is the use of artificial intelligence.
“Our goal is to make sure a kid never wants to bring a gun to school,” Suzy Loughlin, co-founder and chief council of Firestorm, a crisis management firm, said. Toward that end, in partnership with the University of Alabama School of Continuing Education, the company has developed a prevention program that looks for early warning signs in kids who may be at risk of committing future violent acts.
Dubbed BERTHA, for Behavioral Risk Threat Assessment Program, the idea grew out of the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech when 32 people were murdered — one of the deadliest in U.S. history. The February shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that killed 17 people brought more attention to the issue, underscored again in May, by the Santa Fe High School shooting in Texas where 10 students and teachers were killed.
The risk assessment program is conceived of as a safety net to catch children who may need help and intervention before they become suicidal or violent. As demonstrated after each previous incident, administrators, parents, and students wonder why early warning signs — like cyberbullying, allusions to guns, and references to the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado, in 1999 — weren’t noticed earlier.