Wisconsin DOJ begins training Critical Incident Response Teams for schools

MADISON, Wis. — The Wisconsin Department of Justice says its Office of School Safety has started training 12 Critical Incident Response Teams around the state to provide all schools access to regional support teams if a critical incident happens.

The response teams would be available to respond to any sudden and unexpected events that could cause trauma within the school community and overwhelm the normal coping mechanisms the school district would have, according to the DOJ.

Those critical incidents could include acts of violence, natural disasters, serious injuries to students or staff, suicide, community turmoil, intruders, an AMBER Alert or hate crimes.

“We must take a comprehensive approach to school safety,” Attorney General Josh Kaul said in a statement announcing the training. “By creating regional Critical Incident Response Teams for schools across Wisconsin, our Office of School Safety and the partners participating in this program will ensure that resources and support are available if a critical incident takes place at any Wisconsin school.”

The DOJ says the program is designed to minimize the psychological impact of critical incidents and help stabilize the community. The DOJ believes Wisconsin is the first state to put regionally-based Critical Incident Response Teams into place on a statewide level.

Director of the Department of Justice’s Office of School Safety, Trish Kilpin, says they hope to provide evidence-based trauma support in the event of a traumatic incident.

“Having an effective crisis response really mitigates or reduces the intensity of the trauma for school children and adults,” Kilpin said. “So, we would like these teams to be able to help guide the processes that happen in districts after an acute event and be able to respond in ways that, research shows us, reduces trauma.”

The multi-disciplinary teams are made up of volunteers and include law enforcement officers, school administrators, counselors, psychologists, social workers, nurses, teachers, school safety experts and other professions.

Each member of the teams will have to attend one of four training sessions held around the state this summer. The DOJ says the training is designed to give the team members techniques to best respond after a critical incident and will help create uniformity in response and support.

The response team training is funded by a federal grant and Kilpin says she hopes it can continue even after that money runs out.

“Our Critical Incident Response Team is the result of a federal grant that we obtained and we have high hopes to keep the work going beyond the implementation phase, which the grant covers,” Kilpin said.

The program is expected to be fully implemented by this fall.