The FBI is trying to prevent violent extremists from recruiting teenagers by raising awareness with its new website.
“We have seen now more so than ever our youth being targeted by violent extremists of all kinds,” said Bridget Patton with the FBI office in Kansas City.
The FBI’s website called ‘Don't Be a Puppet: Pull Back the Curtain on Violent Extremism’ gives parents and teachers resources to educate teens.
“The age of what somebody would be in high school because that's a very vulnerable time for our kids,” said Patton. “It could be based upon personal needs, affiliation, association, power.”
Shawnee Mission Schools Security Director John Douglass plans to recommend the website for students in his district.
“It makes a lot of sense to me,” Douglass told 41 Action News. “Radicalization can occur at any level, with any kind of political persuasion.”
Douglass encountered a radical and violent extremist while working as Overland Park’s police chief.
A white supremacist shot and killed three people at the Jewish Community Center in 2014.
“We discovered this was not somebody that we had never seen before. He had been radicalized in the ‘70s. His thoughts turned to action," Douglass said.
The Kansas City area has also seen violent extremists plan other attacks recently - from the plot to blow up a downtown high-rise building to a Topeka man charged with trying to bomb soldiers at Fort Riley.
The FBI’s website features videos of survivors from the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Boston Marathon bombing to try to discourage violent extremism in the future.
“We can’t be everywhere all the time. So this is yet another tool in the toolbox for parents, educators, and community members to keep themselves aware,” Patton said.
Patrick Fazio can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.