Regina police say social media, at-home learning fueling increase of violent threats in schools

·2 min read
Regina police say they responded to 55 Violent Threat/Risk Assessments at schools in 2021.  (Alexander Quon/CBC - image credit)
Regina police say they responded to 55 Violent Threat/Risk Assessments at schools in 2021. (Alexander Quon/CBC - image credit)

The Regina Police Service (RPS) says it conducted 55 violent threat/risk Assessments at the city's schools in the 2020/2021 school year, a 60 per cent increase from the year before.

RPS's Violent Threat/Risk Assessment (VTRA) protocol is meant to identify threats in a school and then de-escalate the situation before violence ensues.

The increase in VTRAs were reported at Tuesday's Board of Police Commissioners meeting, as the force submitted its district year-end reports.

Coun. Lori Bresciani voiced concern about the number of VTRAs.

"What does that 60 per cent mean? Because it's quite high," said Bresciani.

Members of the police service offered up a few different reasons for the increase.

They pointed to children becoming more active on social media as well as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the city's schools forcing some students to shift to remote learning.

"We're finding that a lot of the CTRA process, the kids we're dealing with are Grades 8 to 10," said Sgt. Sgt. Jarod Korchinski.

"Coming to high school and not knowing how to interact with other children has thrown things for a loop and it's resulted in a lot of threatenings and fights."

A VTRA brochure on the Regina Public School's website says the protocol will be activated for behaviours such as:

  • Serious violence or violence with intent to harm or kill.

  • Verbal or written threats to harm or kill others.

  • Online threats to harm or kill others.

  • Possession of weapons, including replica weapons.

  • Bomb threats.

  • Fire setting.

  • Sexual intimidation or assault.

  • Gang-related intimidation and violence.

Korchinski said he expects the number to go up in any report covering the 2021-2022 school year.

"We're closer to double if not more than double," Korchowski said.

The increased focus on VTRAs means a shift to a reactive response, Korchinski said.

It also means less time devoted to proactive programming such as lockdown drills and presentations in schools from Regina police officers.

"I counted one week just before Christmas, actually, I don't have the exact number in front of me, but I personally was involved in 14 VTRAs in one week. So my entire week was involved in that process," said Korchinski.

The report presented to the Board of Police Commissioners says school resource officers are no longer just responding to "in-progress calls for service" in schools, but also completing very detailed investigations.