Assessing Violence Potential: Community Protocol for Violence Threat/Risk Assessment (VTRA) and Intervention, 9 th Edition.
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1Assessing Violence Potential: Community Protocol for Violence Threat/Risk Assessment (VTRA) and Intervention,9th Edition
2IntroductionBackground: In 2000, the Lethbridge College and the Canadian Threat Assessment Training Board collaborated in the development of a “Threat Assessment Training” program initiative to train multi- disciplinary teams. Limitations: Need for Training Importance of Safe School Culture: (Pg. 3 – Protocol)Purpose of VTRA Protocol:Assist in creating and maintaining an environment where students, staff, parents, and others feel safe.Identify indicators that suggest a student may be moving on a pathway towards violence against himself/herself or othersIntervene to decrease the risk, prevent injury to self or othersAssist the student to receive the help they need to address to issues contributing to the high risk behaviorsNeed for TrainingThe protocol is not a substitute for training in the field of violence threat/risk assessment and should not be used until adequate training is receivedThe protocol is intended to be used by multidisciplinary teams that are adequately trained in the theory and practice of student threat/risk assessment through the “Level I Violence Threat/Risk Assessment Training” programImportance of Safe School Culture:Need to place a strong emphasis on safety, tolerance, communication, and programming designed to facilitate social responsibility.All are held accountable to these standardsCritical that the students be actively involved in the development of safe school initiatives and programmingThis all helps to facilitate a system where violence is less likely to occur, and early identification of potential problem individuals more possible.
3Introduction Key benefits of having a protocol: The parents, staff, and students know that high risk behaviors will be dealt with, which reduces anxiety in allAssessments may help to identify undiagnosed clinical disorders or other significant issues which can then be dealt with more effectivelyWhen members of a school system become aware that a threat has occurred but no protocol is in place to deal with it, the system’s anxiety increasesThere is an increased risk for multiple threats to occur until the system is seen to be taking necessary steps to ensure safety
4Appropriate Intervention equals IntroductionAppropriate Intervention equalsThreat Management:There is no one tool or strategy designed to manage threatsThreat management is simply an appropriate intervention at the appropriate time
5Violence Threat/Risk Assessment (VTRA) Model Synthesis of two bodies of Research and AssessmentsEarly Secret Service Research around School-based Threat Assessment.General Violence Risk Assessment work that clinicians and therapists have been doing for years.(Pg. 4 – Protocol)Synthesis of two bodies of Research and AssessmentsThe combination of the two methods makes for a more comprehensive assessment.Tools that have been used in general violence risk assessments are not designed to indentify this informationStage I data collection is case specific information collectionGeneral violence risk assessments may indicate that the person does not pose an immediate risk, but may not identify that they are rapidly moving along the pathway for violence.
6Violence Threat/Risk Assessment (VTRA) Model Three Stage VTRA ModelStage IData Collection and Immediate Risk Reducing InterventionsStage IIMultidisciplinary Risk EvaluationStage IIIFormal Development and Implementation of a Comprehensive Intervention(Pg. 6 – Protocol)
7Composition of Violence Threat/Risk Assessment (VTRA) Committee & Teams VTRA Committee and Protocol Development:Every school/community jurisdiction has unique factors that may require modifications to VTRA Membership. These may include community resources, student population size, rural or urban, etc.Phase I: VTRA Committees and Protocol Development.Phase II: VTRA Team Development.Phase III: VTRA Team and Protocol Maintenance.(Pg. 7, 8 – Protocol)The Phases are referred to as Stages in the manual. They have been changed here and will be changed in the manual at a later date to avoid confusion with the three stages of interventionPhase I:A multidisciplinary VTRA Committee must be formed to oversee the drafting of the school and community protocol.The committee should minimally include Hospital (ER Units), Police, Mental Health, Probation, Psychiatry, Emergency Services, etc.Some protocols have had over 40 agency partners sign off on the protocol.Phase II:The development or assembly of both the Stage I & II team members.Phase III:Because the protocol was developed for the safety of all students, it is incumbent on the school jurisdictions to take the lead in maintaining a minimum level of training and understanding of the VTRA model both within the jurisdictions and the supporting agencies.This is an ongoing process due to both staff changes and protocol updates.
8Composition of a Violence Threat/Risk Assessment (VTRA) Committee & Teams Application of VTRA:School – Based Stage I teamsDivision/District Based Stage I TeamsTraining for upper-administrative personnel in the VTRA modelActivation of the Stage II TeamStage I VTRA Team Leadership and Team Activation:Principal or Designate(Pg. 8, 9 – Protocol)School – Based Stage I teamsEach school should have an established team within their own school. This allows for quick responses.Division/District Based Stage I TeamsEach Division/District should have a team established that can parachute in to any school when additional support is needed.Training for upper administrative personnel in the VTRA modelEvery Division/District needs to have these personnel trained in the VTRA model if they are giving guidance or direction to principals regarding assessments.These personnel need to be informed any time there is the activation of either the Stage I or II protocol.Activation of the Stage II TeamThe team members are usually notified by the Stage I team that the protocol has been activated.The Stage I report form is submitted to the Stage II members. They then determine if their agencies have any pertinent information, and report either:Nothing to report,Information that needs to be disclosed due to the risk to self and/or others,No immediate risk, but should seek release of information due to pertinent information related to the case being contained in the file.Stage I VTRA Team Leadership and Team Activation:Since the principal is the one responsible for the safety of all students, it is also their responsibility to formally activate the Stage I team.They must also notify the upper administration responsible for the VTRA protocol administration.Other Stage I team members should also notify their line supervisors of the activation.
9Stage I: (Initial Response) Composition of a Violence Threat/Risk Assessment (VTRA) Committee & TeamsStage I: (Initial Response)Primary Function:Data collectionImmediate Risk Reducing InterventionMembers:School Principal and/or their designateClinician (e.g. Psychologist, Therapist, Counsellor, etc.)Police of Jurisdiction (e.g. School Resource Officer, local police, R.C.M.P.)Others: Probation, Child Protection Workers, Mental Health Workers, etc.(Pg. 10– Protocol)Several Stage I cases are resolved at this stage for a number of reasons:Information the initially activated the protocol can not be substantiated.Threat maker is low risk and used bad judgement at the time of the incident.Adequate interventions are able to be put into place to address the concern.
10Stage II: (Comprehensive Risk Evaluation) Composition of a Violence Threat/Risk Assessment (VTRA) Committee & TeamsStage II: (Comprehensive Risk Evaluation)Primary Function:Risk Evaluation (Low, Moderate, High)Further Data Collection beyond Stage IMembers:Mental Health Workers, Child Protection Workers, Psychologists, PsychiatristsAdditional Resources: Criminal Profilers, Forensic Psychologists(Pg. 11 – Protocol)Members may need to use formal tests and measures.Focused on further data collection beyond that collected by the Stage I team
11Stage III: (Longer Term Treatment Planning) Composition of a Violence Threat/Risk Assessment (VTRA) Committee & TeamsStage III: (Longer Term Treatment Planning)Primary Function:The development and implementation of a comprehensive multidisciplinary intervention.The establishment of a review date.(Pg. 11 – Protocol)The Stage I and/or Stage II team members are re-convened for this process.The agency that takes the lead at this point will be the one that is the best fit or appropriate at the time.As the case progresses or stabilizes, the lead may be transferred from one to anotherEvery case is decided on it`s own merits.
12Determining When To Activate a Violence Threat/Risk Assessment In practice, V-TRA team members often consult with each other on situations of concern but formal action is only taken when particular criteria are metAt times, it may be difficult to decide whether or not to activate the formal VTRA process. The following are guidelines for four main areas. It is important to carefully consider each case on it’s own merits.Immediate Risk Situations:Early Elementary Students:Worrisome Behaviors:Non School Hour Cases:(Pg. 12, 13 – Protocol)Immediate Risk Situations:In many cases, the legal system will refer for a forensic assessment.The VTRA team will only undertake a formal Threat/Risk assessment after the situation is stabilized.These situations are a matter of immediate police intervention and a protective school response.The VTRA team may still do an assessment to help with decisions regarding re-entryEarly Elementary Students:When there is a significant increase in baseline, Weapon possession, or clear and plausible threat, activate the protocol.However, just because they are elementary does not mean they may not pose a threat.However, the majority of threat – related behaviors would fall into the “Worrisome Behavior” category.Worrisome Behaviors:All worrisome behaviours will be communicated to the administration and clinical members for consultationMajority of threat-related behaviour falls in this categoryBehaviors that cause a concern for the school that may indicate that an individual is moving along the pathway for serious violence.If there is further data that suggests the student does pose a threat, the team is then formally activated.The administration may consult with clinical team membersIn these cases the team is not activated formallyFollow up with worrisome behaviors results in good early interventions.Non School Hour Cases:Parents/caregivers will be notified immediately so that they can take steps to protect the target(s)If a V-TRA team member receives information of a clear, plausible, and direct threat before or after school hours, the police will be contactedThe V-TRA team will be activated if the situation is deemed to pose an ongoing risk to some member(s) of the school communityCommunication between patrol officers and the schools and/or the SRO’s are important as many incidents spill over into the schools after the initial incident.This is especially valuable in youth gang related incidents.
13Determining When To Activate a Violence Threat/Risk Assessment The following is a list (Not a complete list) of behaviors that Warrant Automatic activation of a Formal Threat/Risk Assessment.Serious violence with intent to harm or killVerbal/written threats to kill others (Clear, Direct, and Plausible)Internet website/MSN threats to kill othersPossession of weapons, including replicasBomb threats (Making and/or detonating explosive devices)Fire settingSexual intimidation or assaultGang related intimidation and violence(Pg. 14– Protocol)Note: Criminal ChargesIn cases of violence or criminal threats, the police have “First Call” as to whether or not criminal charges will be laid.If the choice is yes, then in many cases the investigation is passed to another officer so that the officer on the team may remain on the team and continue with the protocol.If the choice is no, then the officer will continue involvement in the team.Good communication between the two is important so as to not compromise the investigation/prosecution, or place unnecessary strain on the victims.The Stage I members can continue their data collection while the investigation continues.It is understood that there will be ongoing communication, all the while understanding and respecting the fact that each team member has their own “Jurisdiction”
14Determining When To Activate a Violence Threat/Risk Assessment What is a Threat?It is an expression of intent to do harm or act out violently against someone or something.Types of Threats:Direct threat:Indirect threat:Veiled threat:Conditional threat:Threats may be written, verbal,drawn, posted, or gestured only(Pg. 15 – Protocol)Threats may be written, verbal, drawn, posted, or gestured onlySome threats may not meet standards for criminal charges but do warrant assessmentThese situations are often unique to the culture and dynamics of the school and communityAs well, these behaviors may be determined by a previous assessment as pre-incident indicators in a clear and discernible pattern of offending
15Determining When To Activate a Violence Threat/Risk Assessment When there is violence that occurs, there are some guidelines to help determine if it is a disciplinary matter, or it should be dealt with as a violence/threat risk assessment case:(Pg. 15– Protocol)
16Determining When To Activate a Violence Threat/Risk Assessment Consult with a V-TRA team member if:Lower baseline violence seems unprovokedNo intent to harm is presentClear victim and perpetrator dyad with power imbalanceIf the frequency, intensity, and recency (FIR) of the violence denotes a significant increase in behavioural baseline of the perpetrator(Pg. 15– Protocol)Consult with a V-TRA team member if:Lower baseline violence seems unprovokedNo intent to harm is presentClear victim and perpetrator dyad with power imbalanceIf the frequency, intensity, and recency (FIR) of the violence denotes a significant increase in behavioural baseline of the perpetratorActivate Violence Threat/Risk Assessment (V-TRA) team if:Serious violence occursThere is intent to seriously injure the target(s)When illegal weapons are brandished or used in the commission of the offenceDirect, Clear, and plausible threats to kill or seriously injure are communicated
17Determining When To Activate a Violence Threat/Risk Assessment Activate Violence Threat/Risk Assessment (V-TRA) team if:Serious violence occursThere is intent to seriously injure the target(s)When illegal weapons are brandished or used in the commission of the offenceDirect, Clear, and plausible threats to kill or seriously injure are communicated(Pg. 15– Protocol)Activate Violence Threat/Risk Assessment (V-TRA) team if:Serious violence occursThere is intent to seriously injure the target(s)When illegal weapons are brandished or used in the commission of the offenceDirect, Clear, and plausible threats to kill or seriously injure are communicated
18Working with Members of Ethnic Minorities The Potential for Cultural Bias is Has been well documented in psychological literature.We need to always be cognizant of this fact when conducting a VTRAFactors/Stressors that may influence the perceived levels of risk:Rates of PovertyRacismDiscriminationLanguage BarriersLack of cultural understandingMistrust of authority figures(Pg. 16– Protocol)Working with Members of Ethnic MinoritiesMay be a function of:The construct being measuredVTR between individuals of Western culture may present differently than VTR between individuals of Western sub-cultures such as Aboriginals, or non-Western culturesThe content of the questions and/or how the questions are phrasedFactors/Stressors that may influence the perceived levels of risk:RacismRates of PovertyLanguage BarriersDiscriminationLack of cultural understandingMistrust of authority figuresWays to minimize these factorsHave at least one member on the VTRA team that is of the same cultural backgroundUse a neutral InterpreterIf these are not available within the jurisdiction, with permission – a consultant may be brought in for assistance
19Students With Special Needs and VTRA Typical threat-making or aggressive behaviors for the student’s baseline will not warrant the activation of the V-TRA teamHowever, if the student moves beyond their baseline, the V-TRA team would be activatedOnce activated, the V-TRA process is not modified other than to ensure the appropriate interviewing strategies with the student with special needsNote of Caution:Be cautious not to assume that the behaviors are caused or a result of the diagnosis, neglecting the possibility that the student may be moving along a pathway of “Justification”.(Pg. 17– Protocol)At times there may be a slow and steady increase in the baseline, but not one specific incident that prompts a stage I assessment. Information may arise that requires the benefit of all or some of the Stage II team members to assist in more generalized intervention planningDue to the more comprehensive programming for these students, baseline shifts are easily identifiedNote of Caution:The same dynamics that can increase the risk of violence in the general student population can also be factors contributing to the violence potential of the special needs student independent of their diagnosis.
20VTRA Reminders “Threat Assessment Trumps Suspension” “Threat Assessment is not a Disciplinary Measure”(Pg. 18– Protocol)“Threat Assessment Trumps Suspension”A poorly timed suspension may be seen by the individual as the “last straw”.In most cases, unless the individual of concern is actively posing a threat, the Stage I team collects data within reason before a suspension is even considered.The suspension does not cause the individual to act out in the homicidal or suicidal domains, but does provide the necessary context to take the final step from planning to action.“Threat Assessment is not a Disciplinary Measure”If suspension is necessary, then the next questions are:Threatening to do a threat assessment on an individual, to get the individual to change or stop their current behaviors, is both contrary to the purpose of the protocol and a dangerous unidimensional assessment practice.When to suspend?Is there a healthy adult support to suspend to?Where to suspend?
21Fair Notice Fair Notice : Zero Tolerance: Notice is given that violence and threats of violence will not be tolerated.This will ensure that a consistent message is given regarding the protocol to allZero Tolerance:Zero tolerance for not responding to serious violence or threat-making behaviors(Pg. 18– Protocol)Fair Notice :Prior to any V-TRA protocols being Implemented, all students, staff and parents should be provided with information about the protocol and procedures regarding Threat/Risk assessmentsAny one, any combination of them, or all can be used.Information may be shared through such formats as newsletters, brochures, parent meetings, inserted into agendas, parent and/or staff meetings.Members of the V-TRA team or other appropriate school division personnel should take the lead in presenting this information so students, staff, and parents are aware that this is a jurisdiction - wide protocol.Zero Tolerance:All high-risk behaviours will be taken seriously and high-risk students will be assessed accordinglyDetermining what actions will be taken in any case will depend on context
22Create an Expectation for Responsible Reporting “Social Responsibility”Vs.“Ratting or Snitching”(Pg. 19– Protocol)All students and staff need to be actively taught that seeking out adult support for worrisome behaviors is not “ratting or snitching”, but rather a social responsibility for the wellbeing and safety of all.Actively work to counter the “code of silence”Any person having knowledge of high-risk student behaviour, or having reasonable grounds to believe there is a potential for high-risk behaviour, shall promptly report the information to the school principal and/or designate.No action will be taken against the reporter unless made in malice and without reasonable grounds.In such cases, the student/reporter will be dealt with in accordance with school District Policies
23Responsible Sharing of Information Provinces and States all have legislation that permits the sharing of information under circumstances where there is imminent danger.It is important to review this legislation in your own Province or State to ensure adherence while providing for school safety.(Pg. 19– 27, – Protocol)Refer to the various examples/documents provided in the protocol.
24Responsible Sharing of Information Supreme Court of Canada (1998)The individual charter rights of the student are lessened to protect the collective need for safety and security of the general student population;Schools officials have greater flexibility to respond to ensure the safety of the general student population in an educational setting than law enforcement officials have in a public setting. Report of the Review Panel – Virginia Tech ShootingsOntario and B.C. Privacy Commissioners – Shootings at Carlton University(Pg. 19– 27, – Protocol)The Supreme Court established two principles relevant to Violence Threat/Risk Assessment Protocol:Schools officials have greater flexibility to respond to ensure the safety of the general student population in an educational setting than law enforcement officials have in a public setting. The individual charter rights of the student are lessened to protect the collective need for safety and security of the general student population;Summary of Key Findings p.3Mass Shootings at Virginia Tech: Report of the Review Panel presented to Governor Kaine Commonwealth of Virginia.In reality, federal laws and their state counterparts afford ample leeway to share information in potentially dangerous situations.”Ontario and B.C. Privacy Commissioners issue joint message: personal health information can be disclosed in emergencies and other urgent circumstancesNEWS RELEASE May 9, 2008The two Commissioners want to ensure that people realize that privacy laws are not to blame because they do permit disclosure”.Therefore, if an individual is in possession of reliable information that may indicate that there is an imminent danger to the health and safety of any person or persons, the information can be shared without consent. If information has been shared without consent, the individual shall be advised with whom the information was shared as required by law.
25Responsible Sharing of Information Saskatchewan InitiativesAlberta Initiatives(Pg. 19– 27, – Protocol)Office of the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy CommissionerPERSONAL HEALTH INFORMATION CAN BE DISCLOSED IN EMERGENCIES AND OTHER URGENT CIRCUMSTANCESMay 2008 NewsletterThe Ontario and British Columbia Information and Privacy Commissioners recently issued a joint message – personal health information may be disclosed in emergencies and other urgent circumstances. The target of the message is educational institutions, students, parents, mental health counsellors and healthcare workers in those provinces. The news release includes the following:Sharing Information to Improve Services for Children, Youth and Families: A Guide to the Legislation May 1997Saskatchewan Human ServicesIn the past, human service providers have been reluctant or unable to share information with other professionals due to concerns and regulations related to confidentiality. This has posed a major barrier to successfully coordinating and integrating services and supports.Sharing Information to Improve Services for Children, Youth and Families has been developed to encourage and support human service providers in sharing information among one another.Alberta Children and Youth Initiative (ACYI)Information for Human Service Providers in the Alberta Public SectorRed Light – Green Light
26Responsible Sharing of Information Ontario InitiativesBritish Columbia Initiatives(Pg. 19– 27, – Protocol)Ontario Initiatives/Legislation/RulingsThe Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA) and the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA) provide exceptions for the release of information where there are imminent risks to health and safetyThe Child and Family Services Act (RSO 1990,c.C.11, as amended) states there may be disclosure of information without consent “if the service provider believes on reasonable grounds that, (i) failure to disclose the person’s record is likely to cause the person or another person physical or emotional harm, and (ii) the need for disclosure is urgent.”Examinations and reports by school medical officer Section 91 (5) states:British Columbia Initiatives“If a teacher, principal, vice principal, or director of instruction suspects a student is suffering from a communicable disease, or other physical, mental or emotional condition that would endanger the health or welfare of the students, the teacher, principal, vice principal or director of instructionmay exclude the student from school until a certificate is obtained from the school medical officer or a private medical practitioner permitting the student to return to the schoolmust report the matter to the school medical health officer, to the school principal and the superintendent of schools for the district, and
27Responsible Sharing of Information Example: Significant Risk of Harm to the PublicA school counsellor has observed that one of her student patients is very angry and has been expressing feelings of deep despair and hopelessness. He blames others for his misfortunes and has expressed ideas of “getting even.”The student has no known friends. The counsellor has read essays written by the student that are violent, graphic and very disturbing.Having mentioned his blog, the counsellor read a number of the student’s postings that were also disturbing and self-aggrandizing.
28Responsible Sharing of Information One blog posting included a photo of the student with what appears to be an improvised explosive device.The counsellor’s professional opinion is that the student is on the verge of a breakdown and she is concerned that he will harm himself or others. She recognizes her duty to respect the student’s privacy, but believes there is a significant risk that the student may act out his desire for revenge.She determines that it may be necessary to disclose the student’s personal information in order to prevent significant harm to the student, fellow students, or to the public.
29Responsible Sharing of Information Yukon InitiativesSpecial Note:The remainder of this section was adapted, with consent, from the Yukon Department of Education’s Yukon Threat Assessment Program (Y-TAP) policy and procedure manual.Sharing Youth Justice Information: Youth Criminal Justice ActInformation in a YCJA record may be shared with any professional or other person engaged in the supervision or care of a young person – including a representative of any school board or school or any other educational or training institution – for a range of reasons, including safety of staff, students or other persons(Pg. 19– 27, – Protocol)
30Responsible Sharing of Information Children’s Act Records:Most provincial acts enable the Director to consent to the disclosure of records maintained under the act.There is no time period limiting this.Student Records; Providing consent on behalf of another:Individuals (of authority) may consent for disclosure for another, provided it is not an unreasonable invasion of privacy.(Pg. 19– 27, – Protocol)
31Responsible Sharing of Information Student Records; Children’s Consent: (Factors to Consider)Governing legislationThe age of the childThe child’s level of maturity. (Is the child able to understand the requirements of the consent)The sensitivity of the information and consequences of releasing it(Pg. 19– 27, – Protocol)There are circumstances where the child may be considered able to exercise their right to consent to disclosure of information independently.When considering whether they can or not, there are points to take into consideration.Factors to Consider in Determining Whether the disclosure is an unreasonable invasion of personal privacy:Age of the childFamily situationIs there other relevant information about the disclosureSensitivity of the materialIs it likely that the information may be inaccurateDid the child share the information in confidenceAre there compelling reasons affecting anyone else’s health or safety
32Involving Parents in Threat/Risk Assessments Parent (Caregiver) Notification – Threat Maker:Parent (Caregiver) Notification – Target:Reasons to Delay Notification of Parents:(Pg. 27– 29 – Protocol)Parent (Caregiver) Notification – Threat Maker:Notify at the “earliest” opportunitySpecifically after enough data is collected by the V-TRA team to confirm that a threat or violent incident has occurred, and a current level of violence potential has been determinedParents are an important part of the assessment process as they have insight into the “bedroom dynamics”, “baseline increases/decreases” and other contextual factors that may be risk reducing or enhancingNotification is meant to activate a collaborative process to more fully assess the student, and collaboratively plan interventions if necessaryParent (Caregiver) Notification – Target:Notify at the earliest opportunityDue to the traumatization that the target(s) and parent(s) or caregiver(s), notification needs to done with tact, skill, and planningPlan for possible emotional supports that the family may needNotification should occur after the target is safe and secure if the threat is clear, direct, and plausible.If the threat is not clear, direct, and plausible, the V-TRA team will continue to collect data to determine level of risk before notifying parent(s) or caregiver(s). This is to prevent unnecessary traumatizationReasons to Delay Notification of Parents:Disclosure of child abusePrior history with the parent or caregiver may denote that they pose a risk of violence to staff or othersNotifications in these situations would be timed to minimize potential risk
33Assessing Violence and Threats Data CollectionThe Interviewer:An investigative, Skeptical, inquisitive mindset is central to successful application of the threat assessment processBe ObjectiveUse Common Sense – Step back to evaluate if ther information makes senseCorroborate and Verify Information(Pg. 30 – Protocol)The Interviewer:An investigative, Skeptical, inquisitive mindset is central to successful application of the threat assessment processAuthorities who carry out threat assessments should strive to be accurate and fairThoughtful probing, viewing information with healthy skepticism, and paying attention to key points about pre-attack behavior are all requiredInformation in front of them should be questioned continuouslyCredible verification or corroboration of the essential facts whenever possibleOne also needs to rely on good common sense – step back from the situation occasionally and ask whether the information gathered makes sense and supports any hypotheses formed
34Assessing Violence and Threats Data CollectionWho are the candidates for being interviewed?Teachers/School StaffStudentsTarget(s)Threat Maker(s)Parents/Guardians/CaregiversAny others with potential information(Pg. 31 – Protocol)
35Assessing Violence and Threats Data CollectionThe Interviewed:There are four questions that need to be asked and answered before any interviews are conducted.How much time do we have:Who will be Interviewed:What order will we interview them in:Who will interview whom:(Pg. 31– Protocol)The Interviewed:How much time do we have:When the threat is clear, detailed, and denote a specific time that is imminent, action will need to be taken to ensure the safety of possible targetsIn some instances, the threat maker may be among the last people to be interviewedWhen threat is not imminent, circumstances will help the team to determine who and when to engage in in the clinical interview processPolice involvement in these cases is critical – Lockdown may be warrantedWho will be Interviewed:Teams need to decide whom will have the most credible information and interview them firstIt is understood that initial interviews generally lead to further interviews with more people as new information comes to light3) What order will we interview them in:If the threat is not imminent, the team may have the flexibility in deciding in what order to interviewWho will interview whom:Some may be interviewed one on one, and others by two membersThis depends on the circumstances and relationship between the team members and those to be interviewed
36Assessing Violence and Threats Data CollectionThe Strategic Interview:The following aspects or areas of the threat maker’s life need to be explored through the data collection process. Contextual data may be obtained from multiple sources including those sources (interview candidates) already listedRefer to Appendix “C” for a more thorough guide to the type of data to be collected(Pg. 32– Protocol)
37Assessing Violence and Threats Data CollectionSeries I – Details of the Incident;Series II – Attack-Related Behaviors:Series III – Threat Maker Typology:Series IV – Empty Vessel:Series V – Target Typology:(Pg. 32– Protocol)Series I – Details of the Incident;Explores the who/what/where/when/why details of the threat or violence including weapons possession and the type of threat made (direct, indirect, veiled, conditional)Series II – Attack-Related Behaviors:Explores the history of, and details of any and all attack/assault related behaviors in the pastSeries III – Threat Maker Typology:Explores the personality and behavioral patterns of the threat maker in detailSeries IV – Empty Vessel:Explores the threat maker’s connection to healthy adult supports and other social-cultural aspects of his/her personalitySeries V – Target Typology:Explores the relationship between the threat maker and the target, with interest in the target’s potential for violence as well
38Assessing Violence and Threats Data CollectionSeries VI – Peer Dynamics and Structure:Series VII – Contextual Factors (Triggers):Series VIII – School Dynamics and Structure:Series IX – Family Dynamics and Structure:Series X – Baseline Overview:(Pg – Protocol)Series VI – Peer Dynamics and Structure:Explores the threat maker’s influence in the peer group and vice versa, as well as power differentials among peer membersSeries VII – Contextual Factors (Triggers):Explores events in the threat maker’s life that might be triggers for violence, for example, recent losses, humiliation, stressors, family disruptions, etcSeries VIII – School Dynamics and Structure:Explores the dynamics of the adult structures in the school (Naturally open, etc) as well as flow of information, leadership styles and processes for managing either negative or positive behavioral patternsSeries IX – Family Dynamics and Structure:Explores who all lives in the family, family structure, historical baseline of behavior at home, disciplinary style and behavioral expectations at home, etcSeries X – Baseline Overview:Explores the history of human and site target selection, Frequency, Intensity, Recency of violence; threats or weapon possession, difference from individual baseline versus peer group baseline, drug and alcohol baseline and evidence of evolution of a violent pathway
39Assessing Violence and Threats Data CollectionThreat/Risk Assessment: Evaluation:Following the thorough assessment of all contextual data, risk factors, responsible information sharing and careful consideration of data provided by the family, the TAT makes an evaluation of the threat/risk level posed by the individual (Low, Medium, High)It is important to determine level so that the interventions are consistent and responsive to the level of risk(Pg. 33– Protocol)Low:Categorization of risk does not imply “no risk”, but indicates the individual is at little risk for violence, and monitoring of the matter may be appropriateMedium:Categorization of risk indicates the individual is at an elevated risk for violence, and those measures currently in place or further measures, including monitoring, are required in an effort to manage the individual’s future riskHigh:Categorization of risk indicates the individual is at high or imminent risk for violence, and immediate intervention is required to prevent an act of violence from occurring
40Assessing Violence and Threats Low:Categorization of risk does not imply “no risk”, but indicates the individual is at little risk for violence, and monitoring of the matter may be appropriate(Pg. 33– Protocol)Low:Categorization of risk does not imply “no risk”, but indicates the individual is at little risk for violence, and monitoring of the matter may be appropriateMedium:Categorization of risk indicates the individual is at an elevated risk for violence, and those measures currently in place or further measures, including monitoring, are required in an effort to manage the individual’s future riskHigh:Categorization of risk indicates the individual is at high or imminent risk for violence, and immediate intervention is required to prevent an act of violence from occurring
41Assessing Violence and Threats Medium:Categorization of risk indicates the individual is at an elevated risk for violence, and those measures currently in place or further measures, including monitoring, are required in an effort to manage the individual’s future risk(Pg. 33– Protocol)Low:Categorization of risk does not imply “no risk”, but indicates the individual is at little risk for violence, and monitoring of the matter may be appropriateMedium:Categorization of risk indicates the individual is at an elevated risk for violence, and those measures currently in place or further measures, including monitoring, are required in an effort to manage the individual’s future riskHigh:Categorization of risk indicates the individual is at high or imminent risk for violence, and immediate intervention is required to prevent an act of violence from occurring
42Assessing Violence and Threats High:Categorization of risk indicates the individual is at high or imminent risk for violence, and immediate intervention is required to prevent an act of violence from occurring(Pg. 33– Protocol)Low:Categorization of risk does not imply “no risk”, but indicates the individual is at little risk for violence, and monitoring of the matter may be appropriateMedium:Categorization of risk indicates the individual is at an elevated risk for violence, and those measures currently in place or further measures, including monitoring, are required in an effort to manage the individual’s future riskHigh:Categorization of risk indicates the individual is at high or imminent risk for violence, and immediate intervention is required to prevent an act of violence from occurring
43Violence Threat/Risk Assessment: Intervention and Management Guidelines for Re-entry into School:Established within Stage III of the VTRA ModelSupportive Services:Supporting Targeted or Victimized Students or Staff:Are individual or boader supports neededKey Point:There may be cases where the recipient of the threats has been engaged in high risk behaviors as well, leading to the threats in the first instanceIn these situations the recipient of the threats may need to be assessed for high risk behaviors as well(Pg. 34– Protocol)Guidelines for Re-entry into School:This is best accomplished when the V-TRA team outlines in writing steps the student, family, school, and others need to follow to ensure an appropriate assessment is conducted prior to re-entryV-TRA teams guide the process: initial assessment – planning interventions – planning re-entry from suspensionWhen data suggests that the student poses a threat to others, they may be suspended until a comprehensive assessment can be conductedThe initial team members may work with the student, parents or care giver, to develop a plan for re-entry that becomes a signed contract if necessarySupportive Services:Each member of the V-TRA team need to have the authority within their own jurisdictions to make immediate decisions in regards to supportive servicesImportant to ensure that the support services extended to the family and student are culturally appropriate and/or accessible within the context of the limitations of the communitySupporting Targeted or Victimized Students or Staff:The V-TRA clinician (Psychologist; Counselor) should be responsible to ensure that the recipient-victim of the student threats/behaviors shall be assessed and services provided if necessaryThe circumstances (was one individual or the whole class or school threatened?) will dictate how far reaching an intervention may beThe clinician and administrator should determine if crisis counselling or a crisis response team is needed to re-establish calm
44Anonymous Threats: Assessment and Intervention Note:As of the writing of this protocol, there are no known cases in North America where an un-authored threat to kill was issued and a homicide occurred on the day the threat statedAlthough they may be credible in the world of terrorism, in the field of school-based threat assessment, the lack of ownership (Authorship) denotes lack of commitment.Never the less, there are steps that should be followed(Pg. 35– Protocol)Note:As of the writing of this protocol, there are no known cases in North America where an unauthored threat to kill was issued and a homicide occurred on the day the threat statedThey are typically threats to commit a violent act against an individual(s), specific group, or siteThey may be found written on walls or sidewalks, posted on the internet, letters left behind, etc
45Anonymous Threats: Assessment and Intervention Assess the un-authored threat:In determining the initial level of risk, V-TRA teams should consider the language of commitment in the letterIdentifying the Threat Maker:In many cases the author is never found, but steps can be taken to identify who the author(s) areNote: Contra-IndicatorsAvoid or Minimize the crises/trauma response:(Pg. 35 – 36 – Protocol)Assess the unauthored threat:In determining the initial level of risk, V-TRA teams should consider the language of commitment in the letterAmount of detail in the letter or note (Location where violence is to occur, Target(s), Time, Date, Justifications, etc)Threatened to do what with what (Kill, Murder, Ruin your life, etc)Method of delivery of the threat (who found/received the threat, When did they receive it, how, who else knows, who did they tell, etc)Is the threat clear, direct, plausible, and consistentIdentifying the Threat Maker:In many cases the author is never found, but steps can be taken to identify who the author(s) areHand writing analysisWord usage (phrases and expressions that may be unique)Spelling (errors, or modifications that may be unique)Contra-indicators:Some authors will switch gender and try to lead the reader to believe that they are a boy or girl when they are not, or pretend to be someone else to set them upSome authors will embed their own name into hit lists of identified targetsDepending on the severity of the threat, some or all of the staff members may be asked to assist in analyzing the unauthored threatDepending on the severity of the threat, some students may be asked to give their opinion regarding the origin and authorship of the threat3) Avoid or minimize the effects of the crises/trauma response:Use the expertise of the V-TRA team members to determine an appropriate responseEither an over or under reaction to the unauthored threat may have unwanted repercussions for the school and community
46Post Vention: (Anonymous Threats) Crisis/Trauma Management Low RiskFew are aware of the threat; no names, language is vague, etc.Moderate to High RiskSpecific names or groups are identified; more people are awareof the threats; etc.(Pg. 37 – Protocol)Low RiskIf the language of the threat is low risk but several students, staff, and others are aware of the incident and it appears to be elevating the anxiety of some in the school, then all students, staff, and parents should be notified.In some schools and communities, the unnecessary notification of a “threat-related” incident will cause more harm than good.If the language of threat is low risk and only a few people are aware of the incident, there is usually no need to notify students, staff, and/or parents.Moderate to High RiskIf the case is only known to a few and the target selection is very clear and specific, then the rest of the students and staff would only be notified if they are directly related to the case.If the threat is more specific and deemed a moderate to high risk and includes names of particular targets, then those targeted must be notified. In the case of student targets, parents or caregivers must be notified pending any unique circumstances.Whether the threat is high risk or not, if the school and community are responding traumatically then it is appropriate to consider closing the school for the day upon which the threat was intended to be carried out or, more commonly, increase police presence on the day or time surrounding the intended time the threat was to be carried out.Assure everyone that all students and staff are safe and that the situation is being managed collaboratively as part of the multidisciplinary VTRA protocol.If the threat is deemed moderate to high risk but several students and staffs outside of the target group are aware, then all students, staff and parents should be notified in general terms that an incident is under investigation and the school is following the lead of the police.Some school districts may hire a security firm to assist with an increase in visible, adult support during the critical time as well.
47Post Vention: (Anonymous Threats) Crisis/Trauma Management Communicating with the Media and Parents:When a case draws media attention, any communication should be a collaborative response between the jurisdiction and the police.Information that is communicated to parents/caregivers should be for the purpose of modeling openness, promoting credibility, and reducing/mitigating any increase in system anxiety.(Pg. 38– Protocol)Media:In these cases, it is important that communication is done quickly, even if it is just to state that a formal response is being preparedWithout a timely response, the media may be inclined to pursue other sources of information that may be inaccurate or inappropriate.In most cases the Director/Superintendent and police will work together to communicate with the media.Some Jurisdictions may have their own media relations or communications officer.VTRA members should not communicate with the media unless requested by the Director/Superintendent.The only member of the VTRA team that would have contact with the media is the principal of the school.This contact should be minimal, and for the purpose of modelling calmness and leadership, and reinforcing other prepared communication by the police and Director/Superintendent.Parents:It is better to communicate in person where and when possible.
48Bedroom/Locker Dynamic Throughout the development of the VTRA Model, evidence of this Dynamic has been identified in hundreds of cases across Canada.Unfortunately, in a few cases such as the 1999 School shooting in Taber , this is found too late.Supreme Court of Canada (1998) set a legal precedentIt’s one thing to make a threat. It is another to engagein behavior consistent with the threat.(Pg. 39 – 41 – Protocol)Why?There is an expectation of privacyDon’t want to be discovered to be engaging in and/or having items related to the behaviorIf there is no reasonable expectation of privacy, the individual may choose an alternate location such as a tool shed or vehicleIn many cases, at home, the parent or caregiver has not gone near the individuals’ bedroom for months – some cases a year or more – Wilful Blindness.This may indicate an overall lack of interest in the individualLack of supervision, lack of emotional connectionIn other cases, it may reflect a defect in the hierarchy of the family structure.The child may be “Ruling the Roost”The parent/Caregiver may be in fact afraid for their own safety and the safety of other childrenThe same expectation of privacy is applicable to the school lockerConsistent with what the United States Secret Service has referred to as “Attack related Behaviors”, The more committed the individual is to committing serious violence without being caught, the more likely they will hide such items as weapons, plans, etc in other locations at home in addition to the bedroom.Supreme Court of Canada (1998) set a legal precedentThe need to protect the greater student population supersedes the individual rights of the student.School officials need to be able to act quickly and effectively to ensure the safety of all students.The court established to principles relevant to VTRAThe individual rights of the student are lessened to protect the collective need for safety and security of the general student populationSchool officials have greater flexibility to respond to ensure the safety of the general student population in an educational setting than law enforcement officials have in a public settingThe bedroom dynamic is in the domain of the police officersOften the data found at the school during a VTRA is sufficient for the police to begin preparing for a warrantIn several cases, the evidence found at school has indicated imminent risk and has resulted in the bypassing of applying for a warrant.
49ConclusionThe materials and information in this manual are intended as an informed guide to assessing, intervening with and managing high-risk, violent, and threat making behaviors.No two cases are the sameEach incident must be treated as uniqueThe strengths of this model lies in the use of multi-disciplinary teams that investigate and evaluate all factors and contexts of the student’s life and the specific incident of concernEnsuring safe and caring schools requires more than just training in Violence Threat/Risk assessment proceduresRequires evidence-based, preventative Safe School Climate Initiatives, strong student/staff relationships, ongoing training, and refining of all policies, procedures, and protocols that promote socially responsible behavior
50Assessing Violence Potential: Community Protocol for Violence Threat/Risk Assessment (VTRA) and Intervention, 9th EditionCase Study
51Assessing Violence Potential: Community Protocol for Violence Threat/Risk Assessment (VTRA) and Intervention,9th Edition