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Student Threats of Violence Diana Browning Wright, M.S., L.E.P. Education Consultant, Educational Psychologist, Behavior Analyst

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Presentation on theme: "Student Threats of Violence Diana Browning Wright, M.S., L.E.P. Education Consultant, Educational Psychologist, Behavior Analyst"— Presentation transcript:

1 Student Threats of Violence Diana Browning Wright, M.S., L.E.P. Education Consultant, Educational Psychologist, Behavior Analyst developed in collaboration with Dewey G. Cornell, Ph.D. University of Virginia 1

2 Intensive Interventions At-Risk Students Clear and consistent discipline Positive behavior support system School security program Programs for bullying and teasing Character development curriculum Conflict resolution for peer disputes Schoolwide Prevention All students Students with some problem behaviors Students with very serious behavior problems Intensive monitoring and supervision Ongoing counseling Community-based treatment Alternative school placement Special education evaluation and services Social skills groups Short-term counseling Mentoring and after-school programs Tutoring and other academic support Special education evaluation and services Threat assessment is part of a comprehensive approach

3 Positive Environments, Network of Trainers: download forms and training materials 3


5 School Violence Theories: No single cause No single profile No single remedy Violence is a Learned Behavior: 5 Family, peers, community, media Threats of violence to self or others are a symptom of underlying problems.

6 WHY? 1. Frustration-Aggression Theory Aggressive behavior is an automatic consequence of frustration in goal attainment (Dollard, Doob, Miller, Mowrer, & Sears, 1939, Frustration and Aggression). Theory reformulated by Berkowitz (1989, 1993). Theory applies best to “reactive aggression” (aka hostile, emotional, or affective aggression). 2. Social Learning Theory Aggressive behavior is learned from role models (Bandura, 1973). Modern versions emphasize learning of cognitive scripts for aggression. Theory applies best to instrumental or goal-directed aggression. 6

7 Reactive aggression Involves an angry response to provocation or frustration, sometimes termed affective aggression or hostile aggression. May indicate deficits in anger control, assertiveness, frustration tolerance, or conflict resolution skills. 7

8 Instrumental aggression Use of aggression to attain a goal, often in the absence of anger or provocation. May indicate lack of empathy or concern for others, as well as socialization experiences that taught aggression. 8

9 Pathways to Violent Behavior Provocation Frustration Threats Opportunity Vulnerability Cognitive deficits Poor coping skills Emotional insecurity Poor anger control Violence Inhibition Empathy Guilt Punishment Situation Weapons Intoxication Accomplices Lack of supervision Learning Culture Role Models 9

10 for the violence of committing violence of carrying out the violent actMotiveMethod Means Dewey G. Cornell, Ph.D. School Violence: Fears vs. Facts School Violence Theories: School Shootings--Like other violent crimes, involves : 10

11 Bullying, cliques, rivalries – angry depressed youth Entertainment violence – teaches of violence Unsupervised access to firearms – provides of violence motivate method means School Violence Factors 11

12 The First Report: FBI Shooters Report Conclusions analyzing 17 cases: Student personality Family dynamics School environment Social Factors Associations –NOT cause / effect Threat Assessment Report, 12

13 Threat Assessment IS NOT to Predict Predictions do not work based on profiles Profiles make false predictions, Profiles make false predictions, generate stereotypes generate stereotypes Threat Assessment FBI Report: School Shooters 13

14 Assess for Intensity & Diversity of Service Needs A threat of violent action to self or others Reaction Error: A sole focus on punishing Assessment Error: A sole focus on the nature & severity of threat History of Sexual Abuse Depression Suicide Ideation Parental denial of disturbing behavior Inconsistent school discipline Alienation Eating Disorder Staff oblivious to bullying Manipulative, lack of empathy, other personality difficulties Drug Alcohol Problems Poor Coping Skills Psychotic Features Poor Anger Control History of Physical Abuse History of Neglect Although found in both genders, especially associated in females with physical violence patterns Unrestricted access to entertainment violence Parental conflict attachment issues Code of Silence Peer groups encouraging violence Student/ Teacher mistrust 14


16 Myth 1. Juvenile violence is increasing. Juvenile Arrests for Homicide: 1993 to 2003 FBI Uniform Crime Reports 16

17 Juvenile Arrests for Homicide: 1984 to 2003 FBI Uniform Crime Reports 17

18 Why did violent juvenile crime increase? Source: FBI supplemental homicide data 18

19 Why did violent juvenile crime increase? Increased juvenile use of handguns Development of crack cocaine market, proliferation of gangs and drug-related crime Increase in under-parented children Increasing influence of violent entertainment 19

20 Why did violent juvenile crime decline? Economic improvement - More jobs for young adults and single parents Improvements in law enforcement – community policing, changes in crack market, fewer guns in hands of kids Education – massive increase in school and after-school programs 20

21 Reviewed 221 studies of school-based violence prevention programs Average effect size =.25, which would reduce fighting 50% in a typical school 21

22 Key Point If implemented properly, school violence prevention programs can reduce fighting and disruptive behavior by 50% 22

23 Myth 2. School violence is increasing. Crimes per 1,000 students Ages Indicators of school crime and safety:

24 Homicides in U.S. Schools: to Cases on school grounds during school day recorded by National School Safety Center. 24

25 Myth 3. School homicides are increasing. Cases on school grounds during school day recorded by National School Safety Center. 25

26 Includes all forms of violent crime, including simple assaults and threats of violence. Data from National Crime Victimization Survey Myth 4. Schools are violent places. 26

27 Myth 5. Students are at risk of being killed at school. 27

28 What is the likelihood of a student committing a homicide at your school? 93 student homicides cases in 10 years = 9.3/year ( to ) 119,000 schools 9.3/ year ÷119,000 = case every 12,800 years 28

29 Download at FBI Recommendations on School Violence “One response to the pressure for action may be an effort to identify the next shooter by developing a “profile” of the typical school shooter. This may sound like a reasonable preventive measure, but in practice, trying to draw up a catalogue or “checklist” of warning signs to detect a potential school shooter can be shortsighted, even dangerous. Such lists, publicized by the media, can end up unfairly labeling many nonviolent students as potentially dangerous or even lethal. In fact, a great many adolescents who will never commit violent acts will show some of the behaviors or personality traits included on the list.” (FBI report pp 2-3) 29

30 Profiling does not work. School shootings are too rare. Profiles make false predictions. Profiles generate stereotypes. Profiles don’t solve problems. 30

31 Download at FBI Recommendations on School Violence “Although the risk of an actual shooting incident at any one school is very low, threats of violence are potentially a problem at any school. Once a threat is made, having a fair, rational, and standardized method of evaluating and responding to threats is critically important.” (FBI report p 1) 31

32 Secret Service/DOE Recommendations: Create a planning team to develop a threat assessment program. Identify roles for school personnel. Clarify role of law enforcement. Conduct threat assessments of students who make threats of violence. 32 Download at: Or

33 Threat Assessment 1.Identification of threats made by students. 2.Evaluation of seriousness of threat and danger it poses to others, recognizing that all threats are not the same (e.g., toy guns are not dangerous). 3.Intervention to reduce risk of violence. 4.Follow-up to assess intervention results. 33

34 1.Targeted violence is the result of an understandable process, not a random or spontaneous act. 2.Consider person, situation, setting, & target. 3.Maintain an investigative, skeptical mindset. 4.Focus on facts and behaviors, not traits. 5.Use information from all possible sources. 6.Making a threat is not the same as posing a threat. Ask “Is this student on a path toward an attack?” 6 Principles of the Threat Assessment Process (abridged from Secret Service/DOE Guide) 34

35 35

36 No Magic Formula or Crystal Ball There is no formula, prescription, or checklist that will predict or prevent all violent acts. School authorities must make reasoned judgments based on the facts of each individual situation, and monitor situations over time. 36

37 What is a threat? A threat is an expression of intent to harm someone. Threats may be spoken, written, or gestured. Threats may be direct or indirect, and need not be communicated to the intended victim or victims. (“I’m going to get him.”) Weapon possession is presumed to be a threat unless circumstances clearly indicate otherwise. (“I forgot my knife was in my backpack.”) When in doubt, assume it is a threat. 37

38 Continuum of Threats Warning of impending violence Attempts to intimidate or frighten Thrill of causing a disruption Attention-seeking, boasting Fleeting expressions of anger Jokes Figures of speech 38

39 Grade Levels for 188 Student Threats of Violence K Number of threats 39

40 Where did threats take place? Classroom Hallway Outdoors Other rooms Bus/Bus stop Cafeteria Gym/Restroom Number of threats 40

41 Who reported the threats? Teachers Students Parents Admin/coun Other Number of threats 41

42 N = 188 cases What did the students threaten to do? 42

43 Who was the victim of threats? Student Teacher Other Multiple Number of threats 43

44 Student and Victim Gender Male Victim Female Victim Boy Made Threat 51 % 27 % Girl Made Threat 10 % 13 % 78 % 23 % 44

45 Student and Victim Special Ed Status Not Spec Ed Victim Spec Ed Victim Regular Ed Threat 52 % 3%3% Spec Ed Threat 32 % 13 % N = % 45 % 45

46 Not Covered by Threat Assessment Guidelines Threats to damage property Threats made by non-students Fights or misbehavior that does not involve a threat Slurs, insults, verbal abuse that does not involve a threat to physically harm someone 46 Other school policies apply to these situations:

47 Do not include misbehavior that quickly resolves Teachers and administrators frequently deal with minor arguments or rough, playful behavior in which one student might threaten to strike or push another. Do not include misbehavior that can be resolved in seconds, such as 2 students arguing over who cut in line. If an incident requires more prolonged intervention such as a trip to the office, then evaluate for a possible threat. 47

48 Threat Reported to Principal Step 1. Evaluate Threat. Step 2. Decide if threat is clearly transient or substantive. Step 3. Respond to transient threat.Step 4. Decide if the substantive threat is serious or very serious. Step 5. Respond to serious substantive threat.Step 6. Conduct Safety Evaluation. Threat is serious. Threat is clearly transient. Threat is substantive. Threat is very serious. Step 7. Follow up on action plan. 48

49 Step 1. Evaluate the threat. Obtain an account of the threat and the context from the student and witnesses. Write down the exact threat. Obtain student’s explanation of the threat’s meaning and his/her intentions. Obtain witness perceptions of the threat’s meaning. Document your evaluation. 49

50 1.Do you know why I wanted to talk to you? 2.What happened today when you were [place of incident]? 3.What exactly did you say and do? 4.What did you mean when you said/did that? 5.How do you think [person threatened] feels about what you said? 6.What was the reason you said that? 7.What you going to do now? Typical Questions 50

51 1.What happened today when you were [place of incident]? 2.What exactly did [student who made threat] say and do? 3.What do you think he/she meant? 4.How do you feel about what he/she said? 5.Why did he/she say that? Witness Questions 51

52 All threats are not the same. “I could just kill you for that!” (laughing) “I’m gonna kick your butt.” “There’s a bomb in the school.” “Wait until I get my gun!” “Let’s really make them pay for what they did.” Context matters... 52

53 Step 2. Transient or Substantive? Determine whether the threat is transient or substantive. The critical issue is not what the student threatened to do, but whether the student intends to carry out the threat. When in doubt, treat a threat as substantive. 53

54 Transient versus substantive threats Transient Threats Substantive Threats 54

55 Transient threats Often are rhetorical remarks, not genuine expressions of intent to harm. At worst, express temporary feelings of anger or frustration. Usually can be resolved on the scene or in the office. After resolution, the threat no longer exists. Usually end with an apology or clarification. 55

56 Substantive threats Express intent to physically injure someone beyond the immediate situation. There is at least some risk the student will carry out the threat. Require that you take protective action, including warning intended victims and parents. May be legal violations and require police consultation. When in doubt, treat threats as substantive. 56

57 Substantive threats: Factors to consider Age of student Capability of student to carry out the threat Student’s discipline history Credibility of student and willingness to acknowledge his or her behavior Credibility of witness accounts When in doubt, treat threats as substantive. 57

58 Presumptive indicators of substantive threats Specific, plausible details. (“I am going to blast Mr. Johnson with my pistol.”) Threat has been repeated over time. (“He’s been telling everyone he is going to get you.”) Threat reported as a plan (“Wait until you see what happens next Tuesday in the library.”) Accomplices or recruitment of accomplices. Physical evidence of intent (written plans, lists of victims, bomb materials, etc.) 58

59 Threat Reported to Principal Step 1. Evaluate Threat. Step 2. Decide if threat is clearly transient or substantive. Step 3. Respond to transient threat.Step 4. Decide if the substantive threat is serious or very serious. Step 5. Respond to serious substantive threat.Step 6. Conduct Safety Evaluation. Threat is serious. Threat is substantive. Threat is very serious. Step 7. Follow up on action plan. Threat is clearly transient. Transient Threats 59

60 Step 3. Responses to a transient threat. No need to take safety precautions. See that threat is resolved through explanation, apology, making amends. Provide counseling and education where appropriate. Administer discipline if appropriate. 60

61 Transient Case Steps Step 2. Decide whether the threat is transient or substantive. Consider criteria for transient versus substantive threats. Consider student’s age, credibility, and previous discipline history. Step 1. Evaluate the threat. Obtain a specific account of the threat by interviewing the student who made threat, the intended victim, and other witnesses. Write down the exact content of threat and statements by each party. Consider the circumstances in which the threat was made and the student’s intentions. Step 3. Respond to transient threat. Typical responses may include reprimand, parental notification, or other disciplinary action. Student may need to make amends and attend mediation or counseling. 61

62 Transient Case Example 2 nd grade Jake threatens to kill his classmates after being excluded. Apologizes, denies intent. Tearful and distressed. Inconsistent with previous behavior Recently removed from home for neglect; lonely and depressed Referral for counseling 62

63 Threat assessment is distinct from discipline Threat assessment is concerned with future danger to others, discipline is concerned with consequences for behavior. A threat may pose little danger, yet merit serious disciplinary consequences. 63

64 Who made transient threats? K Number of transient threats 64

65 Transient versus substantive threats Transient Threats 70% Substantive Threats 30% 65

66 Threat Reported to Principal Step 1. Evaluate Threat. Step 2. Decide if threat is clearly transient or substantive. Step 3. Respond to transient threat.Step 4. Decide if the substantive threat is serious or very serious. Step 5. Respond to serious substantive threat.Step 6. Conduct Safety Evaluation. Threat is serious. Threat is substantive. Threat is very serious. Step 7. Follow up on action plan. Threat is clearly transient. Serious Substantive Threats 66

67 Step 4. Serious or very serious substantive threat? Substantive assault threats are classified serious. (“I’m gonna beat him up.”) Substantive threats to kill, rape, or inflict very serious injury are classified very serious. (“I’m gonna break his arm.”) Substantive threats involving a weapon are classified very serious. 67

68 Substantive Case Examples Kindergartener Rob angrily chases classmates with scissors. 7 th grade William plans a fight after school. 9 th grade Laura threatens to cut a girl’s throat. Has a knife in her locker. 68

69 Who made substantive threats? K Number of substantive threats 69

70 Grade Level Comparison of Transient and Substantive Threats 70

71 Step 5. Respond to serious substantive threat. Take precautions to protect potential victims. May consult with law enforcement. Notify intended victim and victim’s parents. Notify student’s parents. Discipline student for threat. Determine appropriate intervention for student, such as counseling or dispute mediation. Follow up to verify that threat has been resolved and interventions in progress. 71

72 Substantive Case Example Step 2. Decide whether the threat is transient or substantive. Does the student express remorse and retract the threat? Is the student willing to make amends or resolve the conflict? What is the student’s history of discipline problems? Step 1. Evaluate the threat. Interview the student who made threat and any witnesses. Consider the circumstances in which the threat was made, the student’s intentions, and the victims’ interpretations of the threat. Step 4. Decide whether the threat is serious or very serious. Did this threat involve a weapon, or a threat to kill, rape, or inflict severe injury? Step 5. Respond to the serious substantive threat. Take protective action by notifying parents of perpetrator and victims. Take disciplinary action consistent with school policy. Identify any other student support or intervention needs. 72

73 Very serious cases are relatively rare Transient Threats Substantive Threats Very Serious 73

74 How many student threats? 15 (8%) Very serious 42 (22%) Serious 131 (70%) Transient 188 Total threats reported 16,434 Students 74

75 75

76 Threat Reported to Principal Step 1. Evaluate Threat. Step 2. Decide if threat is clearly transient or substantive. Step 3. Respond to transient threat.Step 4. Decide if the substantive threat is serious or very serious. Step 5. Respond to serious substantive threat.Step 6. Conduct Safety Evaluation. Threat is serious. Threat is substantive. Threat is very serious. Step 7. Follow up on action plan. Threat is clearly transient. Very Serious Substantive Threats 76

77 Step 6. Conduct a Safety Evaluation for a Very Serious Substantive Threat. Safety Evaluation conducted by a team. Principal leads the team. School psychologist or other mental health professional conducts Mental Health Assessment/extended threat inquiry. School resource officer consults on legal issues. School counselor leads intervention planning. 77

78 Valuable Functions of School Resource Officers Provide assistance in emergencies and difficult situations Help maintain an orderly school climate Expand the range of options in dealing with student threats of violence Counsel students about the consequences of breaking the law Serve as a resource for students with fears, concerns, and information to share 78

79 Very Serious Substantive Threat: Case Example of 8 th Grade John 8 th grade John reported by another student to have a hit list. Tells former girlfriend, “I’m gonna get even with you and all your friends by blowing you all away with a shotgun.” John denies hit list or threatening statement. Later acknowledges anger at several classmates and at Alice, his former girlfriend. 79

80 Immediate responses to a Very Serious Substantive Threat Take precautions to protect potential victims. Consult with law enforcement promptly. Notify intended victim and victim’s parents. Notify student’s parents. Begin Mental Health Assessment. Determine safety during suspension. 80

81 11 Key Questions Abridged from the Secret Service/DOE Guide 1.What are the student’s motives or goals? 2.Any communications of intent to attack? 3.Any inappropriate interest in other attacks, weapons, or mass violence? 4.Any attack-related behaviors? Making a plan, acquiring weapons, casing sites, etc. 5.Does student have capacity to attack? 81

82 11 Key Questions (cont.) Abridged from the Secret Service/DOE Guide 6. Is there hopelessness or despair? 7. Any trusting relationship with an adult? 8. Is violence regarded as way to solve a problem? Any peer influences? 9. Are student’s words consistent with actions? 10. Are others concerned about student? 11. What circumstances might trigger violence? 82

83 Mental Health Assessment Extended Safety Inquiry  Not a prediction model.  Identify any mental health needs.  Identify reasons why threat was made.  Propose strategies for reducing risk. 83

84 Step 7. Follow up with action plan. Determine action plan to reduce risk of violence. Identify appropriate interventions for student. Schedule follow-up contact with student to assess current risk and update plan. Document plan in Safety Evaluation Report. 84

85 Threat Documentation 85 At all stages, document who interviewed whom Document conclusions Document parent contact of Potential victims and student who made the threat

86 Research Needs Controlled studies comparing schools with and without threat assessment. Research on threat context and student characteristics. More follow-up studies of threat outcomes. Identification of effective threat prevention efforts (e.g., bullying reduction). 86

87 European study by Olweus found that 60% of bullies have a criminal conviction by age 24, compared to 10% of controls. 87

88 Typical Threat 1 On interview, the student says he has no plans to harm the classmate and that he just lost his temper. He offers to apologize. What kind of threat? 88

89 Typical Threat 2 A student tells a friend that he is going to beat up Joe in the back parking lot after school today. The friend tells you. What do you do? 89

90 Typical Threat 2 On interview, the student denies making such a statement. He says that what he does after school is his own business. What kind of threat? 90

91 Typical Threat 3 A student sends an threatening to “blow away the preps” at school. When interviewed, the boy says he has a right to free speech. He has a history of discipline problems and students say they are worried. What kind of threat? What do you do? 91

92 Typical Threat 4 A 5 th grader is being teased on a daily basis by several students on his school bus. One day he screams that he is going to shoot everyone on the bus. What kind of threat? What do you do? 92

93 School Safety Assessment/ Extended Threat Inquiry  Who – school staff member who is a mental health professional  When – as soon as possible after a very serious threat  How – Modify questions as clinically appropriate, use as much existing information as possible, concentrate on risk of violence 93

94 Sources of information for school safety assessment Mental health professional will interview: Student Intended victim/witnesses Student’s parent School staff who know student (including SRO, school counselor, teachers) Outside professionals who know student 94

95 Assessment FAQ’s  Parental Permission? – not required in potential school safety emergency, but otherwise necessary  Testing? – use if clinically indicated, to supplement interviews (“ass  External evaluations? – Not a substitute for evaluation by trained school staff 95

96 The Threat Inquiry Process What behaviors/communications were reported and by whom? What was the situation? Who, if anyone, witnessed the reported behavior? What was the context for the reported behavior: what else was going on at the time of the reported behavior? WHAT IS CORROBORATED? WHAT WARRANTS SCRUTINY? 96

97 Can’t Immediately Tell? Dig! Investigate! Immediate Features: Environment/Instruction Interactions Immediate Past Predictors: Interactions/Previous Environments Long-Term Influences & Stresses: Temperament/Genetics, Disability, Abuse, Parent/Child Conflicts, Disorders: e.g., cutting, clinical depression, etc. Least Complex to Most Complex 97

98 Student Interview Review of threat and relationship with victim Stress and situational factors, family support Mental health symptoms (depression, psychosis, severe anxiety, or suicidality) Access to firearms Previous aggressive and delinquent behavior, exposure to violence Peer relations and social adjustment Coping and strengths Bullying and victimization experiences 98

99 Beginning the student interview “Do you know why I wanted to meet with you today?” Explain purpose of interview to understand what happened, why it happened, and what should be done to resolve the problem. Information will be shared with school staff who will be deciding what to do about the problem. No promise of confidentiality. This is the student’s opportunity to tell his/her side of the story and have a voice in what is decided. 99

100 Parent interview Parent knowledge of threat Current stressors, family relations, childhood history Recent behavior and mental health School adjustment Peer relations and bullying History of aggressive and delinquent behavior, exposure to violence, access to weapons Willingness to assist in a safety plan Parent attitude toward school and Law enforcement 100

101 Teacher/Staff Interviews Academics Teacher knowledge of threat Student’s peer relations Depression and/or suicidality Discipline Aggression 101

102 Safe School Initiative Conclusions Targeted violence is a result of an understandable process. It is NOT a random or spontaneous act. Consider person, situation, setting & target Maintain an investigative, skeptical mindset Focus on FACTS and BEHAVIORS, not traits Use information from all possible sources Making a threat is not the same as POSING a treat; Ask, “Is this student on a path towards an attack?” USSS/DOE Safe School Initiative 102

103 10 Key Safe Schools Initiative Findings 1.Incidents of targeted violence at school are rarely sudden, impulsive acts 2.Prior to most incidents, other people knew about the attacker’s idea and/or plan to attack 3.Most attackers did not threaten their targets directly prior to advancing the attack 4.There is no accurate or useful “profile” of students who engage in targeted school violence 5.Most attackers engaged in some behavior, prior to the incident, that caused concern or indicated a need for help 103

104 10 Key Safe Schools Initiative Findings 6.Many attackers known to have difficulty coping with significant losses or personal failures. Many had considered or attempted suicide. 7.Many attackers felt bullied, persecuted, or injured by others prior to the attack 8.Most attackers had access to and had used weapons prior to the attack 9.In many cased, other students were involved in some capacity 10.Despite prompt law enforcement responses, most shooting incidents were stopped by means other than law enforcement intervention USSS/DOE Safe School Initiative 104

105 1.What are the student’s motives or goals? 2.Any communication with others of intent to attack? 3.Any inappropriate interest in other attacks, weapons or mass violence? 11 Key Interview Areas see for interview guide USSS/DOE Safe School Initiative 105

106 Threat Inquiry: 11 Key Interview Areas 4.Any trusting relationship with at least one adult? 5.Is violence regarded as a way to solve a problem? Are there peer influences? 6.Are student’s words consistent with actions? USSS/DOE Safe School Initiative 106

107 Threat Inquiry: 11 Key Interview Areas 7.Are others concerned about the student’s potential for violence? 8.What circumstances might trigger violence? USSS/DOE Safe School Initiative 107

108 Threat Inquiry: 11 Key Interview Areas 9.Any attack-related behaviors? 10.Does student have capacity to attack? Organized thinking? Means to carry out? 11.Is there hopelessness or despair? USSS/DOE Safe School Initiative 108

109 Extended Threat Inquiry (Substantive Threats) Review the threat and relationship with the victim; continue answering the 11 key questions Determine current stress, situational factors, family support Look in depth for mental health symptoms (e.g., depression, psychosis) Review access to firearms, bullying experiences 109

110 Extended Threat Inquiry (Substantive Threats) Consider previous aggressive/delinquent behavior, exposure to violence Peer relationships and social adjustment Assess coping skills, and strengths DOES THIS STUDENT POSE A THREAT? WHAT INTERVENTIONS DOES THIS STUDENT NEED? 110

111 Liability Protection Follow recognized standards. Make reasonable decisions. (Perfection is not required.) Maintain adequate documentation. (Post hoc records are inadequate.) 111

112 Tarasoff The Duty to Protect Potential Victims of Violence Tarasoff v Regents of University of California, 1974, , UC Berkeley student Prosenjit Poddar falls in love with Tanya Tarasoff, but she rebuffs him, goes to Brazil. Poddar becomes depressed and suicidal. Tells his psychologist that he will kill Tanya when she returns. Psychologist breaks confidentiality to notify police, ask that Poddar be hospitalized. Police interview and release Poddar, who quits therapy. Over 1 month later, Tanya returns from Brazil and Poddar stabs her to death, then turns himself in. Poddar pled insanity, but convicted and served 5 years for manslaughter, then deported. Tarasoff family sues University, police, and therapist. 112

113 Tarasoff The Duty to Protect Potential Victims of Violence Tarasoff v Regents of University of California, 1974, and 1976 California Supreme Court decisions. Suits against University and police failed. Psychologist found liable for failing to do enough to protect Tarasoff from harm. Did not warn her personally. Court held, “The protective privilege ends where the public peril begins.” Called “the duty to warn” or the “the duty to protect.” Many cases in other states support some variation of the duty to break confidentiality and take action to protect potential victims of violence. (For exampe, Colorado federal case involving Hinckley’s psychiatrist, Brady v. Hopper 113

114 Confidentiality has limits The Family Education Records Privacy Act (FERPA) applies to educational records, not all information about a student. Even information covered by FERPA can be disclosed in a health or safety emergency situation: “An educational agency or institution may disclose personally identifiable information from a school record to appropriate parties in connection with an emergency if knowledge of the information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals.” Sec (a) 114

115 Confidentiality has limits Information covered by FERPA can be disclosed to other school staff. For example, disciplinary action taken against a student for conduct that posed a significant risk to the safety or well- being of that student or others CAN be disclosed to school staff who have legitimate interests in the behavior of that student. Sec 99.36(b)2 Such information can be disclosed to staff of another school who have legitimate educational interests in the behavior of that student. Sec (b)3 115

116 Access to Records/ Duty to Warn: Conclusions School districts have a duty to warn if threats are specific and substantive School psychologists/counselors and others have a duty to breach patient confidentiality and warn if threat is specific and substantive School districts may release confidential pupil records (general and special education records) to protect the safety of others 116

117 Threat Notification: Take charge of the process! Immediately contact parents of all students who are involved. Safety trumps confidentiality. Share what is necessary to assure safety. Keep faculty and staff informed. They have the need to know. Consider sending a general letter of information to address rumors and fears. 117

118 Threat Notification: Information for a general letter Acknowledge that a threat was made and describe the nature of the threat. (“A student called in a bomb threat this morning.”) The school is following its policy on threats. The police were contacted and are working with school authorities. Steps were taken to assure everyone’s safety. (“The school was searched and no bomb was found. The police are continuing their investigation to identify the person responsible for the call.”) Call us if you have any questions or concerns. 118

119 Parent Notification: Parents of threat victims FERPA does not prevent schools from notifying parents that their child has been threatened. In substantive cases, parents should be told the nature of the threat and the identity of the student who made the threat. Explain to the parents what steps have been taken to maintain the safety of their child (e.g., student disciplined, parents contacted, police notified) so they can judge what they must do. Remain in contact with parents to assure them that the school will maintain the safety of their child. 119

120 Parent Notification: Parents of threat victims Build victim notification into the plan for a student’s return to school after making a threat. Consider requiring student to make an apology or explanation to the victim. Consider requiring student to let you disclose information to the parents of victims. Notify parents of a victim when a student is returning to school. Offer them reassurance, even if you cannot disclose confidential information. 120

121 Documentation of Threats- Why? 1.Maintains quality of threat evaluation process 2.Documents incidents and responses 3.Liability protection 4.Allows staff to evaluate threat rates and trends 121

122 Forms of Bullying Physical hitting, shoving, grabbing Verbal teasing, name-calling Social spreading rumors, shunning or excluding 122

123 Bullying Assessment Flow Chart Step 1: Interview the students 123 Download at:

124 Bullying Assessment Flow Chart Step 2: Was this possibly a crime? 124

125 When is bullying a crime? AssaultLarceny BatteryRobbery ExtortionThefts False Imprisonment Sexual Harassment Stalking HazingThreats 125

126 Bullying Assessment Flow Chart Step 3: Was it bullying? 126

127 Bullying Assessment Flow Chart Step 4: Respond to bullying 127

128 What can we do about bullying? 1.Staff training on bullying. 2.Student and parent education about bullying and school policy. 3.Classroom instruction on bullying. 4.Identify victims. 5.Individual counseling & discipline. 6.Pre-post surveys to measure impact. 128

129 Potential Liability to Schools for Failure to Address the Problem 129

130 Sexual Harassment: Key Definitions “ No person in the U.S. shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, or denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” (Title IX, Education Amendments of 1972) Sexual harassment is “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for favors, and other verbal and physical contact of a sexual nature which takes place in the workplace” (Equal Opportunity Employment Commission) 130

131 Sexual Harassment: Davis v Monroe Fifth grade girl was victim of sexual harassment over a 6 month period by a classmate who attempted to fondle her breasts, rubbed against her, and talked about getting in bed with her. Multiple complaints to teacher and principal produced no correction action. Police charged boy with sexual battery and he pled guilty. Lower courts dismissed the complaint, finding that student-to-student harassment not covered by Title IX. In May,1999 Supreme Court reversed the lower court opinion. 131

132 Sexual Harassment: Davis v Monroe Opinion In May, 1999 Supreme Court ruled that a school board is liable under Title IX for student-to-student harassment if: 1. School authorities had knowledge of the harassment. 2. School authorities were deliberately indifferent to the sexual harassment. 3. The sexual harassment was so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it deprived the victim of access to educational opportunities and benefits. (see 132

133 Liability for Bullying Scruggs v. Meriden Board of Education U.S. District Court of Connecticut Middle school boy receiving LD services was bullied repeatedly, and eventually committed suicide Family sued superintendent, vice principal and school counselor Court found the school to be negligent and deliberately indifferent LW v Toms River Regional School Board of Education New Jersey boy repeatedly teased about perceived sexual orientation in elementary and middle school (called “faggot” “gay” etc., physically bullied and threatened) Court cited Davis V Monroe in finding for plaintiff, awarded 50K School ordered to revise policies, train staff, implement bullying prevention program 133

134 Sexual Orientation Harassment Gay and lesbian students, and students who are PERCEIVED to be gay or lesbian, are protected from harassment at school to the same extent that heterosexual students are protected from sexual harassment by other students. Additionally, students could sue for violation of civil rights, for negligent supervision, or any number of other causes of action. 134

135 Not Addressing: Sexual Orientation Harassment Risks to school –payment of compensatory damages –payment of attorney’s fees –Creates atmosphere conducive to school violence 135

136 Potential Personal Liability to Staff School employees are personally liable for their own acts of harassment School officials may be personally liable for another’s harassment if they are “aware of specific risk of harm” and fail to take reasonable steps 136

137 Potential Personal Liability to Staff School employees may not be protected by immunities, or by district or insurance carrier duties to defend and indemnify. Problem area: Intentional violation of known laws Reno v. Baird (1998) 18 Cal.4th 640; Oona v. McCaffery (1997) 122 F.3d 1207; Government Code section

138 Teacher Intervention for Bullying 71% of teachers state they “almost always intervene” 20 % of students agree they “almost always intervene” < 50% of victims ask a teacher for help Olweus Research (1999) 138

139 Conclusion Bullying / sexual orientation discrimination creates a breeding ground for threats and school violence Proactively solve this problem See website for suggested solutions 139

140 Special Education Considerations In The Threat Inquiry Process At any point, the team may uncover evidence or suspicion of a “suspected disability” for a student with no IEP, with a 504 plan or with an IEP Assessment plan is necessary when determination of disability is examined If new or additional disability becomes suspect, assess in ALL areas of suspected disability 140

141 Suspending Students with IEPs If you suspend in the threat inquiry process, and it will result in more than 10 days this school year –Conduct an FBA of the threat behavior to determine the function of the threat for this student –FBA: review of records, interviews and student observation This can often be done during an IEP meeting 141

142 Suspending Special Education Students If you suspend in the threat inquiry process, and it will result in more than 10 days this school year (continued) –FBA data can also be collected outside of an IEP meeting: direct observation of the student and observation of the environment in which threat occurred and interviews with key informants who have information on the threat If suspension does not reach 11th day cumulative—no special education requirements 142

143 Some “Threat” functions Consider if FBA is to be conducted To get attention from peers or adults To protest something, to express anger or frustration To get status from others To frighten or coerce peers To joke, “playing around” To communicate an intent to attack 143

144 Special Education Threat Considerations Provide ARMS to reduce danger Adher to all special education laws on assessment, child find, related service provision, discipline, Manifestation Determination, etc. Faulty reasoning: expulsion alone solves the problem Truth: expulsion may escalate violence 144

145 School Violence: Standard of Care and Liability Liability Exposure Issues –Standard of Care –School Safety Plans –Duty to Warn 145

146 Standard of Care Defined School districts meet the required standard of care when they conduct reasonable threat inquiries Reasonable means an inquiry using staff and procedures consistent with the current data when analyzed under the “totality of the circumstances”. Reasonable will be judged on a case-by-case basis. 146

147 Standard of Care: Can You Prove It? Pre-established process? Adopted safe school plan with explicit threat assessment protocol? Trained staff? Written summary of threat inquiry process, conclusions and recommendations? Process comports with best practices? 147

148 Negligent Supervision 148

149 Negligent Supervision Elements of Negligence –Duty –Breach of Duty –Causation –Damage 149

150 Duty Statutory Duty Physical control reasonably necessary to: –maintain order –protect property –protect the health and safety of pupils –maintain proper and appropriate conditions conducive to learning. Safe School Guarantee –“Students and staff of public schools have the inalienable right to attend campuses that are safe, secure, and peaceful.” Ed. Code § 44807; (Cal. Const., Art. I, section 28.) 150

151 Duty Common Law “In loco parentis” = In the place of a parent Special relationship –duty to exercise “reasonable care” to control student prevent student from intentionally harming others or creating an unreasonable risk of bodily harm to them 151

152 Duty What is “reasonable care?” That degree of care which a reasonable person in similar circumstances would exercise Dailey v. Los Angeles Unified School District (1970) 2 Cal.3d

153 Breach of Duty Inadequate supervision Ineffective supervision Failure to follow reasonable threat inquiry protocol 153

154 Causation Proximate Cause –“Substantial Factor” test Was breach a substantial factor in injury? Foreseeability –Was conduct foreseeable? –Was type of injury foreseeable? 154

155 Damages Is the district liable for employee’s negligence? –Yes! “Vicarious Liability” a school district is vicariously liable for injuries proximately caused by the negligence of school personnel responsible for student supervision 155

156 Liability & Standard of Care Public Employees May be liable for injury proximately caused by his/her own negligent or wrongful act or omission 156

157 Summary: What Must the School Do? Establish a site team and operate as a team. –Do NOT act alone Never believe discipline alone is adequate for any threat Document procedures, incidents and responses. Records are essential for liability protection. Take all threats seriously. –Do NOT fail to evaluate any threat Determine if school-wide issues need addressing 157

158 Summary: What Must the School Do? Follow recognized standards: ARMS –Assess-with care, to the depth necessary, using multiple informants— student, teachers, peers, parents –Refer-to counselors, mental health, others as appropriate to provide needed interventions –Monitor-establish specific staff to continuously monitor status of interventions and supports –Support-establish adult mentors, behavior support plans, supportive staff interactions to reduce risk 158

159 Summary: What Must the School Do? If the initial inquiry does not immediately determine the threat is transient, assume it is serious (physical assault contemplated) or very serious (weapons/sexual assault) and proceed with extended threat inquiry/assessment  Do NOT fail to inform potential victims for serious/very serious threats 159

160 Teach students to distinguish snitching from seeking help Snitching: informing on someone for personal gain Seeking help: attempting to stop someone from being hurt

161 Thank You! Remember, be skeptical Be thorough Be a team! 161

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