Hamilton County judge gets state recognition for program addressing school threats

Judge John Williams says the goal of the program is to keep kids in school and out of the court system

Hamilton County judge gets state recognition for program addressing school threats

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge John Williams and his partners are being praised for their ways to proactively address school threats.

The Ohio State Bar Association awarded Judge Williams the Innovative Programs and Practices Award for his school threat assessment program. It’s a test, developed by the court’s Chief Clinical Consultant Dr. Nicole Leisgang, that works to assess risk in the threats.

“The Hamilton County School Threat Assessment Program is extraordinary in its positive outcomes, which demonstrate that resources successfully committed to juveniles at the beginning of the juvenile process can prevent far bigger problems down the road,” says Angela Lloyd, Executive Director of the Ohio Access to Justice Foundation and Chair of the Judicial Administration and Innovation Committee.

Judge Williams says the goal is to divert children, when appropriate, from the offenses. He says there are many factors that go into children making threats towards a school, and this is a proactive test to learn more about the motive in each case.

“The worst thing you can do with a kid that is having behavioral issues is kick them out of school,” said Williams. “It doesn’t mean there might not be some alternatives, but we want to keep kids in schools, and not at court. So. it’s an effort to keep kids being educated and not in the court system.”

As part of an ongoing program through Georgetown University’s Center for Juvenile Justice Reform, Williams says the court has been able to work with Cincinnati Public Schools, Princeton City School District and Northwest Local School District to develop an informed process to investigate and assess threats of school violence and determine appropriate ways to divert youth from formal court processing when appropriate.

The program started after the Parkland, Florida school shooting in Feb. 2018. Williams says there have been 66 school-based threats in Hamilton County since then. In many of the instances, he says this psychological review was used.

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