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Threat Assessment in the School Setting Nancy Rappaport, MD Harvard Medical School.

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Presentation on theme: "Threat Assessment in the School Setting Nancy Rappaport, MD Harvard Medical School."— Presentation transcript:

1 Threat Assessment in the School Setting Nancy Rappaport, MD Harvard Medical School

2 Background Data on School Violence School characteristics that are associated with higher rates of school violence are large school size, problematic leadership and presence of gangs in the school. Source: Kaufman, P., Chen, X., Choy, S.P., et al. (2000), Indicators of school crime and safety, US Department of Education (NCES ) and US Department of Justice (NCJ ): Washington, DC.

3 Background Data on School Violence Children and adolescents are three times as likely to be victims of serious violent crime away from school than they are on school grounds. Source: Kaufman P, Chen X, Choy SP, et al. (2000), Indicators of school crime and safety, US Department of Education (NCES ) and US Department of Justice (NCJ ): Washington, DC.

4 Student Victimization Statistics Percentage of students ages who reported criminal victimization at school during the previous 6 months Percent Grade Source: U.S. Department of Education (National Center for Education Statistics), U.S. Department of Justice (Bureau of Justice Statistics), Indicators of School Crime and Safety 1999.

5 Most Common Types of School Violence Interpersonal disputes Assaults without weapons Assaults between (male) students Before and after school, during transitions between classes, during lunch

6 How Is School Violence Measured? Self-Report Surveys Studies do not report using response reliability or validity checks Public Health Model Source: Cornell DG, Loper AB (1998), Assessment of violence and other high-risk behaviors with a school survey. School Psychology Review 27:

7 Ambiguous Questions In the past thirty days, how many times have you brought a weapon to school [gun, knife or club]? (YRBS) Multiple weapons Choice of time period Level of severity Source: Kann L, Kinchen SA, Williams BI, et al. (1998), Youth risk behavior surveillance - United States, Journal of School Health, 68,

8 School Violence Statistics In a 2001 survey of high school students, 17.4% had carried a weapon to school during the 30 days preceding the survey. Source: Grunbaum J, Kann L, Kinchen SA, et al. (2001), Youth risk behavior surveillance - United States, Surveillance Summaries, 28 June 2002.

9 Expulsions for Bringing Firearms to School 57% involved high school students 33% involved junior/middle school students 10% involved elementary school students Gun-Free Schools Act Report: School Year , U.S. Department of Education, October 2002

10 Reprinted by permission

11 Battered Teacher Syndrome Depression Elevated Blood Pressure Interrupted Sleep Headaches Source: Bloch, AM (1976), The battered teacher. Todays Education, 66:58-62.

12 School violence is an important part of the daily lives of children in schools… It affects where they walk, how they dress, where they go and who their friends are. As long as teachers treat violence at arms length, as something that is someone elses problem, they will continue to neglect the opportunity to intervene in a crucial aspect of the childrens lives. By ignoring school violence, the name-calling, the shoving, the fighting, the harassment, they are condoning it. children see teachers walking by, pretending not to notice, and they learn that the way we treat others, the way we interact on the street or in the playground, is nobodys business but our own. Teachers must talk about violence, they must recognize it, examine it, dissect it, and let children see and understand its secrets and its sources. Without this examination it remains an ugly secret that society cannot understand or control. Source: Epp JR, Watkinson AM (1997), Systemic violence in education: Broken promise. Albany: State University of New York Press.

13 Crimes Against Teachers On average, each year from 1993 to 1997 there were 131,400 violent crimes against teachers at school, as reported by both public and private schools. This translates into a rate of 31 crimes for every 1,000 teachers and a rate of 53 thefts for every 1,000 teachers. Source: U.S. Department of Education (National Center for Education Statistics), U.S. Department of Justice (Bureau of Justice Statistics), Indicators of School Crime and Safety 1999.

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15 Multiple-Victim Homicide Incidents at School Source: 1999 Annual Report on School Safety. The School Associated Violent Deaths Study, Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Department of Education, Number of Incidents

16 A 14-year old girl in Pennsylvania spoke honestly during a class discussion of the Colombine tragedy. She stated that she could understand how a person could be driven by hurtful others to a point of wanting to explode and hurt someone. She was quickly escorted to the principals office, physically searched for weapons, and then suspended from school. Source: National Public Radio (6 May 1999), All things considered. Transcript by Burrelles Information Services, Livingston, NY

17 Characteristics of Students Exhibiting Violent Behavior Classroom Avenger Premeditated assailant involved with shooting multiple students Often comes from rural or suburban areas and different family backgrounds and academic achievement, with little prior involvement with the juvenile justice system Typically Violent Student Often from families in turmoil with a history of abuse and neglect Failing academically Struggling with impulsive behavior, poor frustration tolerance and limited concentration Source: Twemlow SW, Fonagy P, Sacco FC, OToole ME, (2002), Premeditated mass shootings in schools: Threat assessment. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 41:

18 Guidelines for Assessment High-level threats include direct, specific threats where the student has concrete plans to execute his threats Medium-level threats can be concrete with descriptive detail but lack discernable preparation plans. Low-level threats are those threats that seem exaggerated; the student has inconsistent details of a plan Source: Fein RA, Vossekuil B, Pollack WS, et al. (2002), Threat Assessment in schools: A guide to managing threatening situations and to creating safe school climates. United States Secret Service and United States Department of Education, Washington, D.C.

19 Classification of Risks Individual traits describe a wide range of behaviors such as low frustration tolerance, poor coping skills, recent rejection, and signs of depression Family dynamics highlight difficult parent- child relationships including parents denying their childs troubled behavior and providing minimal supervision Source: Twemlow, S.W., Fonagy, P., Sacco, F.C., OToole, M.E. (2002), Premeditated mass shootings in schools: Threat assessment. J. Am. Acad. Child Adolesc. Psychiatry, 41: ; Browne, J.A., Losen, D.J., Wald, J. (2001), Zero tolerance: Unfair, with little recourse. New Directions for Youth Development, 92:73-99.

20 Classification of Risks, ctd. School problems are teasing, and a school climate that encourages a code of silence and reinforces bullying behavior Community factors may inhibit or stimulate aggression depending on the availability of guns, immersion in deviant peer groups, and easy access to drugs and alcohol

21 Assessment Guidelines Has there been any communication that suggests ideas or intent to attack? Has the student shown deviant fantasies of revenge? Has the student engaged in attack-related behaviors? How organized is the students thinking and behavior? Is the student experiencing hopelessness, desperation and/or despair?

22 Assessment Guidelines (ctd.) Does the student have a trusting relationship with at least one responsible adult? Does the student see violence as an acceptable-or desirable-way to solve problems? Is the students conversation and story consistent with his or her actions? Are other people concerned about the students potential for violence? What circumstances might affect the likelihood of an attack?

23 Zero Tolerance: Can Suspension and Expulsion Keep Schools Safe? Skiba RJ, Noam GG (eds.), New Directions for Youth Development: Theory Practice Research, Volume 92. Winter 2001, Jossey-Bass Press.

24 Currently the majority of public schools adopt a zero tolerance stance for any kind of violent behavior with no research to demonstrate the efficacy of these policies Political solution Source: Editors Notes: New Directions for Youth Development, 92:1-6.

25 There is a disproportionate representation of minority students and students with special needs being suspended or expelled Source: Skiba RJ, Peterson RL (1999), The dark side of zero tolerance: Can punishment lead to safe schools? Phi Delta Kappan, 80:

26 Many students recommended for expulsion from schools do not represent danger to other students or staff and are a heterogeneous group Source: Morrison GM, DIncau B (1997), The web of zero tolerance: Characteristics of students who are recommended for expulsion from school. Education and Treatment of Children, 20(3):

27 Disconnected group Socialized delinquent group (31/158) Troubled group First offense group Source: Morrison GM, DIncau B. (2000), Developmental and service trajectories for students with disabilities recommended for expulsion from school. Exceptional Children,66:

28 Federally Mandated Special Education Protection More than ten days of suspension in one school year Expulsion proceedings Source: Morrison GM, DIncau B. (2000), Developmental and service trajectories for students with disabilities recommended for expulsion from school. Exceptional Children,66:

29 Is the offense a manifestation of their disabling condition? Determination of their appropriate placement Source: Morrison GM, DIncau B. (2000), Developmental and service trajectories for students with disabilities recommended for expulsion from school. Exceptional Children,66:

30 Five-Step Case Evaluation Consultation Model 1.Informed consent 2.Referral information 3.Contact with school and other professionals 4.Student and parent interviews 5.Report and feedback

31 Conditions of Psychiatric Evaluation Office of Special Education Special Education Services eligibility NOT confidential

32 Selected Specific Behavior Rating Scales Source: Connor, D.F. (2002), Aggression and Antisocial Behavior in Children and Adolescents: Research and Treatment. New York: Guilford.

33 Scale/ Reference: Aggression Age Range Conduct DomainsInformants New York Teacher Rating Scale (NYTRS; LS Miller et al., 1995) 6-14Defiance, Physical Aggression, Delinquent Aggression, Peer Relations Teachers Predatory-Affective Aggression Questionnaire (Vitiello et al., 1990) 10-18Predatory Aggression, Affective Aggression Other (Staff, Peers) Proactive-Reactive Aggression Scale (Dodge & Coie, 1987) 5-18Reactive Aggression, Proactive Aggression Parents, Teachers, Other

34 Structured Assessment of Violence Risk in Youth Source: Bartel P, Borum R, Forth A (2002), Structured Assessment for Violence Risk in Youth (SAVRY). Consultation Edition.

35 Childrens Aggression Scale – Teacher Version (CAS-T) Verbal aggression Aggression against objects and animals Provoked physical aggression Unprovoked physical aggression Use of weapons Reliability Source: Halperin JM, McKay K, Grayson RH, Newcorn JH. (2003), Reliability, validity, and preliminary normative data for the Childrens Aggression Scale – Teacher Version. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 42:

36 CASE STUDIES

37 Case One Individual Factors Family Factors School & Peer Factors Treatment Situational Factors Attack-Related Behaviors

38 Myth of the Teenage Werewolf Popular media often insinuates that there are minimal warning signs for violent teenagers. In contrast, violent students often have histories of low frustration tolerance, impulsivity and angry outbursts. Adolescents who are at risk often externalize their anger and are less subtle about their agitation.

39 Treatment System Gaps Practical Limitations Crisis Response Lag Time

40 Coordinated System of Care Access to a psychiatric emergency room, inpatient unit, outpatient services Shared Responsibility School Setting

41 Multisystemic Response Flexibility Adolescents with conduct problems Department of Mental Health (DMH) diagnosis Source: Mattison RE, Spirito A (1993), Current consultation needs of school systems. In: Child and Adolescent Mental Health Consultation in Hospitals, Schools, and Courts, ed. B Nurcombe, GK Fritz RE Mattison & A Spirito. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing, pp ; Henggeler SW, Melton GB, Smith LA (1992), Family preservation using multisystemic therapy: An effective alternative to incarcerating serious juvenile offenders. J Consulting Clin Psychol, 60:

42 Case Two Situational Factors Attack-Related Behaviors Family Factors School & Peer Factors

43 Clinical Prediction of Risk Very little research on the accuracy of clinical prediction of violence in adolescents Risk factors, resilience factors, potential triggers Grisso: I do not know whether this youth will engage in violent behavior, but the risk that it may happen is (greater than, similar to, less than) the risk posed by youths in general in (the relevant setting). Source: Comer JP (1997), Waiting for a Miracle: Why Schools Cant Solve Our Problems and How We Can. New York: Dutton. Grisso T (1998), Forensic Evaluation of Juveniles. Sarasota, FL: Professional Resource Press.

44 The importance of advocacy in modifying the disciplinary action Source: Morrison GM, DIncau B. (2000), Developmental and service trajectories for students with disabilities recommended for expulsion from school. Exceptional Children,66:

45 There is a key distinction between predicting violence and emphasizing preventing violence by suggesting appropriate interventions. Source: Sewell K W, Mendelsohn M (2000), Profiling potentially violent youth: Statistical and conceptual problems. Childrens Services: Social Policy, Research, and Practice, 3:

46 Enhancing Protective Factors Child FactorsFamily Factors Extrafamilial Factors Easy Temperament Higher IQ Internal locus of control High self-esteem Academic competence Social competence Competence in activities Good parent-child relations External supports Friendships Availability of Opportunities Source: Connor DF (2002), Aggression and Antisocial Behavior in Children and Adolescents: Research and Treatment. New York: Guilford.

47 Case Three Individual Factors Family Factors School & Situational Factors Systemic Assessment

48 Systemic Violence Contextually embedded School climate Institutional practices that adversely affect individuals Source: Furlong MJ, Morrison G (2000), The school in school violence: Definitions and facts. Journal of Emotional & Behavioral Disorders, 8:71-82.

49 Schools can be an arena where cultural differences are amplified. Source: Delpit LD (1995), Other People's Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom. New York: New Press. Lightfoot SL (1978), Worlds Apart: Relationships Between Families and Schools. Basic Books: New York.

50 Time Somebody Told Me Quantedius Hall, Son of Reality, Age 12 Time Somebody Told Me That I am lovely, good and real That I am Beautiful inside If they only knew How that would make me feel. Time Somebody Told Me That My mind is quick, sharp and full of wit That I should keep on trying and never quit. Time Somebody Told Me How they loved and needed me How my smile is filled with hope And my spirit sets them free How my eyes shine, full of light How good they feel when they hug me tight. Time Somebody Told Me So, I had a talk with myself Just me, nobody else cause it was time Somebody Told Me. Source: Franco, B (ed.), You Hear Me? Poems and writing by teenage boys. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press.


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