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1 National Association of School Psychologists
Threat Assessment and Threat Management in the Schools Threat Assessment Workgroup These guidelines were developed by a workgroup of NASP Threat Assessment experts to assist school psychologists to understand basic principles of threat assessment and threat management in schools. National Association of School Psychologists Annual Convention 2006 Anaheim, CA

2 Introduction of Speakers
Jill D. Sharkey, PhD, NCSP University of California, Santa Barbara Linda M. Kanan, PhD, NCSP Cherry Creek School District Kathy S. Sievering, MA, MA, NCSP Jefferson County School District Gina Hurley, EdD, NCSP Barnstable School District Speakers introduce themselves, District or University affiliation, and experience.

3 This slide of multiple fatality shootings across the country gives a picture of the variety of communities affected by these tragedies. However, media publicity given to school shootings has created the misperception that schools are dangerous places, and stimulated new disciplinary policies and practices that are based on fear rather than facts about the risk of school violence. In reality, few schools will ever experience a shooting or similar act of violence.

4 How Much Violence Occurs in U.S. Schools?
High profile cases of school shootings have skewed public perceptions of the level of violence in schools. School violence is declining, not increasing. Over a ten-year period ( to ) there were 93 student homicides, or 9.3 per year. The public may perceive that schools are dangerous because of the media attention given to extreme incidents such as school shootings. Threat assessment should be informed by consideration of the base rates for different forms of violence. Homicides at school are very rare, but fights, threats, and weapon incidents are much more common. Multiple studies indicate that school violence, and juvenile violent crime in general, has declined substantially since the early 1990s. School administrators often worry that a student might commit a homicide at their school, yet the base rate for student-perpetrated homicides at school is extremely low. Over a ten-year period there were an average of 9.3 student homicides per year. With 119,000 schools in the United States, the rate of homicides per school is just , and the average school can expect a homicide approximately once every 12,800 years.

5 Causes of Death in Young Persons Ages 5 to 24
From an actuarial perspective, the risk of a student being killed at school is far less than the risk from other causes, especially motor vehicle accidents. School safety policy and practices should not be determined by the fear of such an unlikely event. Source: National Vital Statistics Report, 1998 and National School Safety Center

6 Serious Discipline Violations in U.S. Schools
Although school homicides are rare, other forms of violence are more common. According to the School Survey on Crime and Safety from the National Center for Education Statistics (2004), about 54% of U.S. schools reported taking serious disciplinary action during the school year. Serious disciplinary action includes expulsion (11%), transfer to an alternative school program (7%), or suspension of 5 or more days (83%). “Serious” means expulsion, transfer or suspension of 5 or more days Source: National Center for Education Statistics (2004) Data for school year

7 Student-Perpetrated Homicides in U.S. Schools: 1992-93 to 2002-03
Despite a spate of copycat crimes from 1997 to 1999, the frequency of school shootings has declined since Source: Cases identified from the National School Safety Center’s report on school-associated violent deaths. Only cases of student-perpetrated homicides on school grounds are included in this chart. Chart prepared by the Virginia Youth Violence Project, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia. Cases on school grounds during school day recorded by National School Safety Center.

8 Understanding Student Violence
Troubled students Students who engage in general violence Targeted school shooters Not all troubled students demonstrate violent behaviors. The list of US Dept. of Ed. Warning Signs (1998) is best described as indicators of troubled students vs school shooters. As noted in the diagram, general violence indicators can differ from indicators that a student is planning a targeted school shooting. However, there is some overlap in the characteristics of these students who demonstrate at-risk behaviors. (Kanan, L. & Sievering, K.)

9 The Expansion of Zero Tolerance
No Toy Guns No Nail clippers No Plastic utensils No Finger-pointing No Jokes No Drawings No Rubber band shooting No Accidental violations No Drugs No Guns No Knives No Threats In spite of the previous facts, the fear of school violence has led to dramatic expansion of zero tolerance policies. Zero tolerance policies have resulted in the suspension or expulsion of students for innocuous and non-dangerous childhood behavior.

10 What is Threat Assessment?
Threat assessment is a process of evaluating the risk of violence posed by someone who has communicated an intent to harm someone. Threat assessment considers the context and circumstances surrounding a threat in order to uncover any evidence that indicates the threat is likely to be carried out. Threat assessment includes interventions designed to manage and reduce the risk of violence. Threat assessment is an approach to violence prevention originally developed by the U.S. Secret Service as part of its mission to protect public officials. Reports by the FBI (2000) and by the Secret Service and Department of Education (2002) recommended that schools adopt a threat assessment approach to prevent acts of targeted violence in schools. The process is centered upon analysis of facts and evidence. It focuses on actions, communications, and specific circumstances that might suggest an intent to commit a violent act.

11 How Does Threat Assessment Differ From Zero Tolerance?
Threat assessment considers the context and meaning of a student’s behavior, not just the behavior itself. Threat assessment is designed to determine the seriousness or danger of a student’s behavior, and to respond accordingly. Threat assessment permits flexibility in how schools respond and does not require the same severe consequence for all infractions Threat assessment offers a more flexible, common-sense alternative to zero tolerance.

12 What are the Purposes of Threat Assessment?
Reduce the risk of violence. Identify educational needs and support services for students who have made a threat. Reduce legal liability by following reasonable and accepted practices for violence prevention. There are multiple purposes for using a threat assessment approach. The first and most obvious purpose of threat assessment is to reduce the risk of violence implied by a threat. Also important, and often critical to the success of violence prevention, is to identify any educational needs or support services for the students that may be associated with the threat. Finally, threat assessment provides schools with a standardized practice for dealing with potentially dangerous situations that can help assure public confidence in the safety of the school and meet legal liability expectations.

13 Threat Assessment Process as a Continuum
Threat assessment inquiry is carried out by a school team Threat assessment investigation is carried out by a law enforcement agency There may be several “right” ways to conduct a threat assessment Not all threat assessments will be referred to law enforcement U.S. Secret Service, Threat Assessment in Schools, p. 44 Some threat assessments will be brief and limited, others will be extensive and complex. All should include a process for the handing off to law enforcement officials as necessary. Source: US Secret Service, Threat Assessment Guide

14 When Should a Threat Assessment be Conducted?
When information about a student’s behavior and communications passes an agreed upon threshold of concern… U.S. Secret Service Threat Assessment in Schools Guide, p. 48 What is your threshold of concern? The Virginia study model we will talk about today engages in full threat assessments for “substantive” threats. Some school districts investigate all threats and determine needed next steps. The Threat Assessment team must consider: How much time do we have? Safety of the school and community is the priority, but care should be taken that students are not treated inappropriately.

15 Who Conducts Threat Assessment?
A multidisciplinary team consisting of respected members of the school faculty or administration. School resource officer assigned to the school (if available) A mental health professional- School psychologist, social worker, guidance counselor Other professional-teacher, nurse, etc. Consider using your pre-existing team U.S. Secret Service, Threat Assessment in Schools, p. 37 Threat assessment should be conducted by a multidisciplinary team that includes school administrators, school resource officers and support services staff. Some school districts are developing a 2-tier team system. The first tier is the school based multidisciplinary team. For more complex or serious cases, the second tier, consisting of district and community personnel is utilized. Some districts have used a two tier system where the principal or designee determines if the threat is transient or substantive first, and then assembles the team. For example in a high school setting, an assistant principal, a dean of students for discipline, a counselor, a psychologist and the school resource officer make up the school based team. In an elementary school, the team is likely smaller. It will most likely be the principal, the psychologist or social worker, an assistant principal (if there is one), or a district consultant (special education, if needed).

16 What is Involved in a School Threat Assessment Process?
Identification of threats made by students. 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). Intervention to reduce risk of violence. Follow-up to assess intervention results. Threat assessment is a somewhat misleading term, it is a process that extends to include interventions design to reduce the risk of violence and continuing assessment of the situation.

17 A threat is an expression of intent to harm someone.
What is a Threat? A threat is an expression of intent to harm someone. Threats may be verbal, written, artistic 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. Threat assessment can be distinguished from profiling or from other forms of risk assessment because it is prompted by the observation or report or a threat. Threat assessment must begin with the identification of a threat or threatening behavior by a student.

18 What is a Threat? Report Threats Verbatim Direct Threat Third Party
-statement of clear, explicit intent to harm Third Party - violence of intent to harm another Indirect Threat -violence is implied-threat is phrased tentatively Conditional Threat -made contingent on set of circumstances Veiled Threat -vague & subject to interpretation Threats can be verbal, written, artistic, or symbolic (i.e. gun gesture, slash to neck, etc). Patterns of escalating behavior may also warrant the initiation of a threat assessment. It is our job to know more about threats, and how to identify the severity of risk involved. This information about verbal threats should also be taught to staff. Examples: Direct: “I am going to place a bomb in the school’s gym.” Third Party: “I am going to kill Mrs. Smith.” (not directly to the victim but told to someone else) Indirect: Vague, unclear and ambiguous. The plan, the motivation, and other aspects of threat are masked.” If I wanted to, I could kill everyone at this school. Suggests that is could--not will occur.” Conditional: Contains the words “if”, or “or”. “If you don’t give me your lunch money, you’ll be sorry.” “You’d better give me the money, or I will kick you butt after school.”. These are used to manipulate or intimidate. Veiled: Implies but does not explicitly threaten violence. “You’d be better off if you didn’t come to school tomorrow.” “I can understand how some kids go off the edge and shoot up their schools.” Verbatim reporting is important to assess the severity of the threat. ALL threats should be met with a response. The level of response must be appropriate for the level of concern. Report Threats Verbatim

19 Examples of Verbal Threats
Direct “I’m going to shoot you with my 9mm Glock after school” Third Party “I am going to get him, wait and see.” Indirect: “If I wanted to, I could kill everyone at this school.” Conditional “If you don’t give me an “A” on my report card, I will shoot you” Veiled “It’s understandable why Columbine happened” Some threats are not clear-cut, but all imply that someone could be harmed. A threat may be expressed to the intended victim or to a third party. These are some examples of the previous slides that indicates types of threats.

There is a rapidly growing literature offering advice on how schools should deal with threats of violence, but relatively little research directly bearing on school practices. This section will review the FBI and Secret Service studies of school shootings that generated recommendations for schools to use a threat assessment approach, and then review the Virginia study that field-tested these recommendations. In addition, we will review how one large school district has operationalized the Secret Service recommendations (Cherry Creek schools, Englewood, Colorado)

21 Two Government Studies Recommend School-Based Threat Assessment
The FBI came out with their report entitled the School Shooter in 2000. The Secret Service went on to conduct studies of school shootings in a collaborative effort with the US Dept. of Education. They examined 37 incidents between in 26 states. They reviewed incidents of targeted school violence, where the attacker purposefully chose school as location of the attack. Not where school was location of opportunity (such as a drug deal or gang interaction). Secret Service and U.S. Department of Education report (2002) Available at FBI report (2000) Available at

22 FBI Report Discourages Profiling of School Shooters
“…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 p 2-3) The FBI advised against the effort to develop a profile or set of warning signs to identify potential school shooters. Because school shootings are so rare, warning signs are likely to identify large numbers of false positives: students mistakenly identified as dangerous. For example, students who wear trench coats and/or play Violent video games.

23 Profiling Does Not Work
School shootings are too rare. Profiles make false predictions. Profiles generate stereotypes. Profiles don’t solve problems. Be careful that “warning signs” are not used to profile students. Profiles will make false predictions and generate stereotypes. Moreover, even if a student meets a profile, this will not be sufficient to reduce the risk of violence, which is the principal goal of threat assessment.

24 FBI Recommends Threat Assessment Approach
“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) Although school shootings are rare, threats of violence are relatively common, they are disruptive to the learning environment, and because there is some unknown risk of harm, they demand a school response. Therefore, it is important to have an objective, standardized way of responding to threats.

25 Lessons Learned: Final Report & Findings of the Safe School Initiative, 2002
Most attackers had difficulty coping with significant losses or personal failure Many attackers felt bullied, persecuted or injured by others Most had access to and had used weapons before the attack In many cases, students were involved in some capacity Most attacks were stopped by means other than law enforcement Incidents of violence were rarely sudden, impulsive acts Other people knew about the attacker’s idea & plan to attack Most did not threaten their target directly before attack There is no accurate or useful profile of students who engage in targeted school violence Most attackers engaged in some behavior that caused others concern or indicated a need for help 1. Planned Acts in 93% of cases. In the cases where harm was planned, 51% had the idea for at least a month. 2. In 81% of cases, at least one other person knew before act. In 59% of cases, more than one person knew. In 93% of the cases, a SCHOOLMATE or SIBLING knew 3. Only 17% threatened to harm in some way prior to attack. Most did not tell the target directly they planned to harm them, but told someone else. 4. No profile: Variety of family backgrounds. Very few were failing (5%), 63% had never or rarely been in trouble at school. Only 1/4 had ever been suspended from school. Only 1/3 were seen as loners.Before the attacks,about half showed no marked change in performance, friendships or disciplinary problems. 5. 93% engaged in BEHAVIOR that had caused school officials, parents, teachers, police or fellow students to be concerned. In 88% at least one ADULT was concerned. Efforts, to get a gun, build a bomb, put poison in food, etc. 6. 98% had experienced some type of loss prior to attack.Loss of status, relationship. Lacked coping skills and had behaviors that suggested difficulty in coping (83%).Most attackers had history of suicide attempts or suicidal thoughts prior to attack (78%) More than half had documented history of feeling depressed or desperate (61%). WATCH FOR THESE SUICIDAL KIDS WHO MAY BE HOMICIDAL. 7. 71% felt bullied, persecuted or injured prior to attack. In several cases, the bullying was long standing and severe. In one case the attacker was described as the kid everyone teased. 8. Nearly 2/3 (63%) had known history of weapon use.Over half had some experience with a gun (59%)68% acquired the guns used in the attack from their own home or that of a relative. 9. Many attacker were encouraged or influenced by others to engage in the attacks (44%). Peers exert enormous influence over their friends and school mates. This is why we need to train the students to “:break the code of silence”! 10. Most were stopped by school administrators, educators, or other students, or by stopping on their own (or suicide). Most incidents were brief and ended in less than 15 minutes. Only 27% were stopped by law enforcement intervention. About 1/4 were over in 5 minutes.

26 US Department of Education
US Secret Service/ US Department of Education Recommendations for Threat Assessment Create a planning team to develop a threat assessment process. Identify roles for school personnel. Clarify role of law enforcement. Conduct threat assessments of students who make threats of violence. The Secret Service expanded it’s work to include the publication : Threat Assessment in Schools: A Guide to Managing Threatening Situations and to Creating Safe School Climates (2002). They recommended that all schools develop a threat assessment plan. The plan should clarify the roles of school staff and law enforcement personnel.

27 Key Points About Threat Assessment
Threat assessment stresses the examination of specific behaviors directly linked to committing a violent act Threat assessment aims to determine how serious the threat is and then what should be done about it. Threat assessment is ultimately concerned with whether the student poses a threat, not whether the student made a threat When in doubt as to whether the student’s actions constitute a threat, investigate the behavior as a threat Threat assessment is designed to focus attention on specific behaviors by a student that indicate preparation or progress toward committing a violent act. All threats are not equally dangerous, and some threatening statements by a student may pose little or no danger because the student does not intend to carry out the threat. Accordingly, threat assessment is concerned with determining whether a student’s actions pose a threat, not whether the student simply made a threat. If there is doubt whether a student has made a serious threat, the team should continue its investigation and treat the threat as serious, in order to err on the side of safety.

28 6 Principles of Threat Assessment
Targeted violence is the result of an understandable process, not a random or spontaneous act. Consider the interaction of 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 threat. Ask “Is this student on a path toward an attack?” The Secret Service/Dept. of Education identified six important principles to understand in conducting a threat assessment. These principles are elaborated in their report.

29 Secret Service Threat Assessment Inquiry
1. Gather facts about the student, the situation, and possibly the targets 2. Obtain information about the student Background & present situation Behaviors, motives, target selection School information Collateral School Interviews Parent/Guardian Interviews Interview with Student of Concern See Chapter 5 in Secret Service Threat Assessment Guide Show guide

30 11 Key Questions What are the student’s motives or goals?
Any communications of intent to attack? Any inappropriate interest in other attacks, weapons, or mass violence? Any attack-related behaviors? Making a plan, acquiring weapons, casing sites, etc. Does student have capacity to attack? The Secret Service identified 11 questions that are often helpful in conducting a threat assessment. The questions focus on behavior and communication.

31 11 Key Questions (cont.) 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? Note that all of the Secret Service questions are oriented around determining if the student is on a behavioral pathway leading to an act of violence. There is considerable emphasis on situational and relationship factors, and relatively little concern with personality factors or other individual characteristics that are often identified when profiling is used.

32 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. School psychologists should help administrators avoid the temptation to adopt simplistic solutions or rigid plans for dealing with student threats. The FBI and Secret Service reports advise school authorities to make reasoned judgments based on the facts and evidence they obtain in the course of a systematic and team-based evaluation.

33 Will Threat Assessment Work?
Many schools have developed their own threat assessment guidelines and procedures following the recommendations from the US Department of Education and the US Secret Service. One study has developed and field-tested guidelines for schools to use in responding to student threats of violence. This study was conducted by the Virginia Youth Violence Project of the University of Virginia. Although there are a number of books and articles containing advice on conducting threat assessments, few studies have tested that advice in school settings.

34 434-924-8929
The first threat assessment study directly based on the FBI and Secret Service reports was published in School Psychology Review in A companion article focusing on threat assessment of students receiving special education services is in press with Behavioral Disorders. The results were also recently published as Guidelines for Threat Assessment in schools, published by Sopris West, 2006. NOTE: Should this slide be changed? His book has now been published.

35 Virginia Study Design Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. (2006). Guidelines for Responding to student threats of violence. Longmont, CO: Sopris. Researchers and group of school personnel (administrators, support staff, and law enforcement) developed a set of threat assessment guidelines. Threat assessment teams in two school divisions (approx. 16,000 students) were trained using a standard manual. Participants were from 35 schools K-12. The Virginia study was designed to develop and field-test threat assessment guidelines in schools. Two school divisions containing a population of approximately 16,000 students in grades K-12 participated in the study. The schools included urban, suburban, and rural students of primarily Caucasian (71%), African-American (22%), and other (7%) background. Teams used threat assessment guidelines and maintained records for 1 school year. Teams documented 188 threats during that period.

Now we will discuss the threat assessment process used in the Virginia study.

37 Team roles in Virginia Model
Principal or Assistant Principal Leads team, conducts Step 1. School Resource Officer Advises team, responds to illegal actions and emergencies. School Psychologist Team member, conducts mental health assessments. School Counselor Team member, lead role in follow-up interventions. Teachers, aides, other staff Report threats, provide input to team. No additional workload. Threat assessments should be completed by a multidisicplinary team. Although the team leader is advised to consult with team members as needed, many threats can be resolved without full team involvement. In this model, ”Cornell et al. decided that school principals or assistant principals, rather than other members of the school staff such as the school resource officer, psychologist, or counselor, should lead the threat assessment team. Schools vary in their staffing and might not have fulltime staff in these positions, but principals head all schools. Moreover, principals and assistant principals typically have authority over student discipline and quite understandably would desire involvement in any serious threat of violence, so that it seemed wise to establish teams within the existing school hierarchy of authority and responsibility. We also recognized that it would be potentially problematic for someone other than the school principal to be in a position of authority in making decisions about a student who had made a serious threat of violence.The school principal has the primary role and the greatest responsibility on the threat assessment team, consistent with his or her leadership role in the school. The school principal or assistant principal leads the team and makes final decisions about the course of action to take in response to student threats. Other team members have responsibilities intended to provide the principal with information and recommendations to consider in making these decisions.” With that said, team roles can be framed within a particular school’s culture and resources. In some school districts the role of the school counselor varies. The principal or assistant principal may have a designee. In fact in some districts the threat assessment is involved with threat assessment from the first step. Schools may further specify team roles and include other staff to meet local needs. (Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

38 How Does Threat Assessment Begin?
All school staff should be trained and prepared to identify and report threats to the school principal or designee. Threat assessments are usually initiated by the principal or assistant principal as part of the disciplinary process. The principal consults with other team members. Team members become involved depending on the complexity of the case. Threat assessment requires a whole-school commitment and collaborative effort, starting at the level of identifying and reporting a threat. The entire threat assessment team may not have to convene for every reported threat. Decisions are based on multiply sources of information and are best made with consultation. (Adapted from Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

39 Virginia Model-Threat Reported to Principal
Step 1. Evaluate Threat. Step 2. Decide if threat is clearly transient or substantive. Threat is substantive. Threat is clearly transient. Step 3. Respond to transient threat. Step 4. Decide if the substantive threat is serious or very serious. The Virginia Model uses a seven step process outlined here in this decision tree. We will outline the steps of this process. Further information about this study and the model used can be found in a new publication entitled Guidelines for Threat Assessment in schools by Dewey Cornell and Sheras, published by Sopris West, 2006. Threat is serious. Threat is very serious. Step 5. Respond to serious substantive threat. Step 6. Conduct Safety Evaluation. Step 7. Follow up on action plan. (Cornell, D. & Sheras, P., 2006)

40 Virginia Study Model 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. The first step in the Virginia Model is to evaluate the threat. The exact wording and context of a threat are very important. Interview the student who made the threat as well as witnesses. Students often leave out important contextual information when they recount an event, so be sure to ask questions to assess the situation. Observations like “he was laughing,” “joking around,” “seemed really serious,” etc. can be helpful. Also assess the witness’s motivation as a witness and his or her relationship toward the accused. In all cases, the team leader should strive to base decisions on information gathered from multiple sources including one or more school staff members who have direct knowledge of the threat or relevant knowledge of the student. Team leaders are advised to consult with one or more team members in classifying threats and making important safety decisions. In complex the team leader might enlist the direct involvement of other team members early in the assessment process. (Cornell and Sheras, p 19 & 20). (Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

41 Types of Threats Transient v. Substantive
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. 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. This model uses the distinction between transient and substantive threats. Transient threats are threats that are easily resolved. If a threat cannot be clarified and resolved, then it should be considered substantive. Any threat where there is some concern that the student might carry it out should be classified as substantive. Other than a distinction between transient and substantive threats, these guidelines do not attempt to determine a specific quantity of risk for several reasons. First, it is questionable what it means to say that a student has x% risk of violence, and even if such risks could be determined, it is expected that the level of risk will change according to the student’s circumstances and the team’s efforts to reduce the risk. As long as there is some risk that the threat will be carried out, the team should make appropriate efforts to reduce the risk. (Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

42 Virginia Study Model 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, proceed as if threat is substantive. Before determining actions, the first step is to decide whether the threat is a transient concern or expression of feeling that does not persist as a genuine intent to harm someone versus a serious threat that has substance. (Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

43 Transient Versus Substantive Threats
In Virginia Study Substantive Threats 30% 70% of threats in the Virginia study were resolved as transient threats. Transient Threats 70% (Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

44 Substantive Threats: Factors to Consider
Credibility of student and willingness to acknowledge his or her behavior Credibility of witness accounts Age of student, consider developmental factors Capability of student to carry out the threat Student’s discipline history When in doubt, treat threats as substantive. In deciding whether a threat is substantive, the threat assessment team must consider the credibility of the student reported to have made the threat and any witnesses to the threat. Secondarily, the team may consider the student’s age and capability of carrying out the threat and the student’s discipline history. (Adapted from Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

45 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 or evidence of planning (“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.) There are no absolute or definitive indicators that a threat is substantive. Presumptive indicators strongly suggest that a threat is substantive, unless contrary evidence demonstrates otherwise. (Adapted from Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

46 Virginia Study Model 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 skills education where appropriate. Administer discipline if appropriate. Transient threats are resolved in three steps in the Virginia model. By definition, a transient threat is not serious because it has been resolved. Sometimes the explanation may resolve the issue, other times an apology may be offered. Nevertheless, a threat still may merit disciplinary consequences for inappropriate or disruptive behavior. A transient threat may also indicate need for supportive intervention, such as counseling, or communication with family members. For example an angry child may need counseling for anger management or social skill training. (Adapted from Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

47 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. A threat may pose danger, yet disciplinary consequences would be inappropriate and exacerbate the problem Both transient and substantive threats may deserve disciplinary consequences. For example, a false bomb threat may be transient because there is no actual risk of violence, but the behavior will likely result in severe disciplinary consequences. Another example: A student hearing voices telling him to kill others may need hospitalization and an intensive special education program when he returns to school but might not receive disciplinary consequences.

48 Who Made Transient Threats?
5 6 24 22 10 8 15 13 9 7 20 25 30 K 1 2 3 4 11 12 . Number of transient threats Transient threats were found most often in 3rd and 4th grade, and peaked again in middle school. (Middle school covered grades 6-8 in this study.) (Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

49 Virginia Study Model 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. In the Virginia Model, Substantive threats are sub-classified as serious or very serious. The distinction is similar to the difference between a misdemeanor and a felonious assault. (Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

50 Who Made Substantive Threats?
1 3 5 4 2 13 10 11 15 20 K 6 7 8 9 12 . Number of substantive threats Substantive threats peaked in grades 7 and 8 of middle school and grade 9, the first year of high school. (Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

51 Virginia Study Model 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. Here are standard recommended responses to a serious, substantive threat, such as a threat to beat someone up. Serious threats involve a fight or a threat to hit someone or to beat someone up without the use of a weapon Two examples- A student tells a classmate, “ Rob is going to get jumped at lunch.” A student sends a note saying, “ I am going to punch you out tomorrow at the bus stop.” Examples of precautions: Cautioning the student who made the threat about the consequences of carrying it out. Providing direct supervision so that the student cannot carry out the threat while at school. Contacting the student’s parents to assume responsibility for supervising the student after he/she is returned to parental control. Parents should be notified anytime that a student makes a threat, (assuming the information is reliable). (Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

52 Immediate Responses to a Very Serious Substantive Threat
Take precautions to protect potential victims (in addition to those below). Consult with law enforcement promptly. Notify intended victim and victim’s parents. Notify student’s parents. Begin Mental Health Assessment. Determine safety during suspension. The full threat assessment team should be involved in a very serious threat. All of the responses to a very serious substantive threat have the purpose of protecting potential victims. Very serious= Only the most dangerous and serious threat situations. Use all the precautions taken for a serious threat including supervising the student, contact the parent and contracting law enforcement promptly. In addition, the team should take steps to determine whether the student has access to a weapon such as a gun or knife even if the threat does not specify use of a weapon, (Example: “I am going to kill him.”). (Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

53 Very Serious Cases Were Relatively
Rare in Virginia Study Very Serious 15 (8%) Substantive Threats Serious 42 (22%) Very serious substantive threats were infrequent in the Virginia sample. (Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006) N=188 Transient Threats 131 (70%)

54 Threat Reported to Principal
Very Serious Substantive Threats Threat Reported to Principal Step 1. Evaluate Threat. Step 2. Decide if threat is clearly transient or substantive. Threat is clearly transient. Threat is substantive. Step 3. Respond to transient threat. Step 4. Decide if the substantive threat is serious or very serious. In the Virginia Model, only very serious substantive threats proceed to Steps 6 and 7. Threat is serious. Threat is very serious. Step 5. Respond to serious substantive threat. Step 6. Conduct Safety Evaluation. Step 7. Follow up on action plan. (Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

55 Virginia Study Model Step 6
Virginia Study Model Step 6. Conduct a “Safety Evaluation” for a Very Serious Substantive Threat. “Safety Evaluation” is conducted by a team and led by Principal or designee. School psychologist or other mental health professional conducts Mental Health Assessment Consult with school resource officer School psychologist/counselor leads intervention planning. Safety evaluations were conducted only for very serious substantive threats. There may be other cases or situations in which some elements of a safety evaluation would be appropriate. Though in the model used in this research, the principal led the team, the team leader may be another professional if the school culture warrants it. Step 6 advocates close communication with the SRO. They may obtain law enforcement advice and recommendations and help take protective actions if needed. (Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

56 Mental Health Assessment
Virginia Study Model Mental Health Assessment MHA- part of the safety evaluation, not a prediction of student violence. Help identify any mental health needs (e.g., suicidal). Help determine reasons why the threat was made. Propose strategies for reducing risk. MHA= It is intended to gain an understanding of the reasons for the student’s threats so that a plan can be formulated. It is a risk reduction or risk management approach and not a purely predictive approach. School psychologists are not asked to make a prediction of violence in this model. Instead, the goals of the mental health assessment are: to identify any mental health needs the student might have (treatment needs) such as the need for emergency hospitalization for psychosis or suicidality. to determine the reasons why the student made the threat and propose strategies for reducing risks in the action plans. This information will be used to generate recommendations of strategies to reduce the risk of violence. For example, a school psychologist might recommend a conflict resolution program, an investigation of bullying, or other services. A referral for special education services also might be appropriate in some cases. In the Virginia Model a MHA is conducted with very serious threats. Some school districts include student and parent interviews prior to this step as recommended by the Secret Service Guide pages (Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

57 Sources of Information for Mental Health Assessment
Mental health professional should interview: Student Intended victim/witnesses Student’s parent School staff who know student (including SRO, guidance counselor, teachers) Outside professionals who know student Be sure to remain skeptical and inquisitive The threat assessment manual contains a detailed list of instructions for conducting a mental health assessment of the student who made a threat. (Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

58 Mental Health Assessment FAQ’s
Parental Permission? – not required in emergency, but otherwise necessary Additional Testing? – use if clinically indicated, to supplement interviews External Evaluations? – Not a substitute for evaluation by trained school staff (Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006 Because safety is the most important priority, just like in a suicidal situation, parental permission is not necessary to interview the student in the context of an emergency or crisis situation. However, permission should be sought soon, in order to establish a working relationship with the family. Formal assessment may be warranted, especially for level of depression, suicide risk, and special education needs, if warranted. Because school staff have greater access to information, are more knowledgeable of the school, and understand the threat assessment process, there should be a strong preference for using them rather than external evaluators.

59 Primary Purpose of a Student Interview
Interview tone should be professional, neutral, and non-confrontational. Interview may have these effects: send the message that the student’s behavior has been noticed and caused concern gives student chance to tell their personal story and be heard provides opportunity to reassess and redirect their behavior Primary Purpose of Student Interview is to learn about the student’s thinking, motives, and behavior. Watch to see if non-verbal cues match verbal communication. Does the child’s affect match the seriousness of the situation? (Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

60 Student Interview Review threat and relationship with victim
Determine stress, situational factors, and family support Screen for mental health symptoms (depression, psychosis, severe anxiety, or suicidality) Ask about access to and/or interest in firearms Investigate previous aggressive, delinquent behavior and exposure to violence Evaluate peer relations and social adjustment Identify coping skills, weaknesses and strengths Question bullying and victimization experiences The manual contains a detailed list of questions for interviewing the student who made the threat. This is not a confidential interview, because it may be necessary to use the information to prevent an act of violence. Note-78% of school attackers in the Secret Service study had a history of suicide attempt or thoughts prior to the attack. (Adapted from Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

61 Parent Interview Question parent’s knowledge of the threat
Determine current stressors, family relationships, and childhood history Ask about recent behavior, mental health, school adjustment, peer relations and bullying Gather history of aggressive/ delinquent behavior and exposure to violence Ask about access to and/or interest in weapons Determine parent’s willingness to assist in a safety plan and obtain needed releases Observe parent attitude toward school and Law enforcement In interviewing the parents, inquire about their knowledge of the threat as well as other circumstances and factors that might be influencing their child. Also gauge their level of cooperation, since it bears directly on decisions about the safety of returning the student to school. Be sure to obtain permission to communicate with other parties, such as community-based mental health service providers and the parents of other students who might be involved in the threat. (Adapted from Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

62 Virginia Study Model Step 7. Follow up With Action Plan.
Determine action plan to reduce risk of violence Identify appropriate school, family and community interventions for student Schedule follow-up contact with student to assess current risk and update plan Document plan in “Safety Evaluation Report” Monitor and review effectiveness of plan Based on input from all team members, the team will develop an action plan (or safety plan). The goal of the plan is first, to maintain safety by reducing the risk of violence, and second, to provide appropriate educational and support services for the students involved in the threat. Ideally, this plan is documented in writing and placed in the student’s confidential file. (Adapted from Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

63 Assessing Written or Artistic Material
Understand the context of the writing or drawing Ask in detail about the material Express concern Think of written and artistic material as attempts to practice violence Look for themes Monitor past & future materials Be persistent and specific with questions Assess access to or knowledge of weapons Chart triggers, responses, and trees over time Pool the data Triangulate data Watch for non-verbal cues (Kanan, L. & Lee, R., 2003) If the threat is written or artistic use the student’s material for part of the interview. Break down the details. Quote and reference the material without judgment or leading questions. Model concern when something is upsetting or bizarre. These are representations of practicing behaviors. Enter their fantasies and give them a realistic perspective on what it means to an outsider. When there are references to weapons, feel out their knowledge of weaponry

64 Case Examples: Written and Artistic Threats
Linda and Kathy to give examples if time allows.

65 Reasons to Monitor and to Work With Parents
Items found in Eric Harris’s car Similar items were found in Dylan Klebold’s car (Sievering, K. 2004) These items were found in Eric Harris’s car after the Columbine shooting.

66 Fireworks Found in Columbine Shooter’s Home
Dylan collected fireworks to make bombs with. Numerous bags of fireworks were found among their possessions at home. (Sievering, K. 2004)

67 Cherry Creek Schools, Colorado: Danger Assessment Process
1. Incident triggers the concern 2. Assemble the team 3. Review the incident of concern 4. Gather information about the threat and the student from a variety of sources 5. Evaluate the information 6. Determine the level of concern using the FBI Risk Categories 7. Develop an action and supervision plan (Cherry Creek Schools, Kanan, L. & Lee, R., 2003) In another district, Cherry Creek Schools in Englewood, Colorado, The team is assembled at the start of the process. They also have a seven step process listed here. The incident is reported and the team then assembles to assist in the gathering and evaluation of information. Team members help to interview. A further mental health evaluation is also conducted if necessary.

68 Cherry Creek Schools, Colorado: Sources of Information Before Determining Risk
Past and present school records Internet, written, and artistic materials Law enforcement records Search of student, locker, and car Search of room or home Student interview Parent interview Interview with staff, witnesses, and peers Interview with targeted individual(s) Contact with community agencies Multiple sources of information are used in this process before making the evaluation decision. The notion is to triangulate data by checking with other sources. (Go over the list) (Cherry Creek Schools, Kanan, L. & Lee, R., 2003)

69 Cherry Creek Schools, Colorado: Evaluate the Information
Consider warning signs The threat, target, plan, weapon, ability, history, motive, and practicing behavior. Use the Secret Service 11 key questions. Consider risk factors Special needs, past discipline, suicide or depression, legal concerns, family issues, unusual interests, victimization, coping style Consider protective factors Seeks help, people monitor, peer/adult support, self-monitor/self-regulation abilities, previous interventions (trees) that were successful Information gathered is then organized in terms of three categories: 1. Factors that fit the early & imminent warning signs, and the 11 key Secret Service questions are used. 2. Factors that generally make a student more at risk, and 3. Protective factors, or factors that have decreased the chances of at-risk behavior in the past. (Cherry Creek Schools, Kanan, L. & Lee, R., 2003)

70 FBI Risk Continuum Low Level Medium Level High Level
Minimal risk to target(s), students, staff, & school Threat os violence is possible, but not entirely realistic Threat & situation pose an imminent & serious danger to others. Threat is vague and indirect Threat is more plausible & concrete with some thought to time and place. Threat is specific & plausible with identified target & capacity to act. Available information suggests that the person is unlikely to carry out the threat Moderate or lingering concerns about a student’s potential for violence. Information suggests a strong concern about the student’s potential to act violently. These levels are from the FBI information. Some districts are using these levels of risk (Cherry Creek & Denver, Colorado for example) There are some other classifications of risk that have been used: Mohandie has 5 levels of risk, for instance. O’Toole, M.E. (August, 2000). The school shooter: A threat assessment perspective. Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Justice. Available:

71 Cherry Creek Schools, Colorado Danger Assessments by Level of Concern Over Two School Years
We had some schools mark 2 levels (creating a 5 part severity scale) which has seemed to best describe the concern level at times.

72 Designing Action Plans & Interventions
ESSENTIAL COMPONENTS OF SUPPORTIVE BEHAVIOR PLANS: Description of the behavior of concern Behavioral goals A plan for teaching and supporting the new behavior Description of success Plan for implementation Timeline for review When writing specific behavior plans, you can follow much the same format as for a student who has an IEP and you would be writing a Behavior Support Plan. What is it exactly that the student is doing, and what do they need to do instead? Be sure you have a good plan. Involve the student and the parent (what will THEY do? Document it, and follow up). Set a timeline. Review in a couple of weeks to see how the student is doing. Review periodically, even if informally. These plans can be very creative if you consider the strengths of the student as well as the needs.

73 Interventions in Summary
Threat Intervention Continuum: Solutions Equal to the Level of Concern Build the plan as a team Trees, Treatment, Monitoring, Protection Give consequences, but also build skills and support Document your plan Monitor, monitor, monitor (Kanan, L. & Lee, R., 2003) How to intervene with students?Be sure the interventions are appropriate to the level of concern. Sometimes a meeting with the parent and student will be the intervention (low level concerns). Sometimes students will need a more thorough mental health assessment and treatment plan. Include the parent and student in the development of a plan. Always consider various kinds of interventions (Trees). We try things and monitor the students behavior. That will give us more information about a student’s risk. Sometimes students need treatment (how will it be obtained? Is a school group enough? Does the student need structured anger management training? Is the student depressed? Etc.) Always monitor. Have the student check in and out, if necessary. Take protection if needed. Does the security staff know to watch for this student returning to campus? Give appropriate consequences, but also build skills for the child (coping skills, anger management, etc.) Who will be the support system for this student? Inside school and outside school? Does the student have a favorite person at school that can be the support? Document your plan. Who was involved. Monitor continually and evaluate the plan..

74 Interventions: Handle with Care
A.R.M.S. REFER MONITOR ASSESS SUPPORT This is from Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. (2006). Guidelines for Responding to Student Threats of Violence. Loveland, CO: Sopris West. This process can be applied to any student behavior problem, but especially those requiring a functional analysis of behavior that leads to a Behavior Support Plan. Assessment of the problem behavior Referral of the student for needed services Monitoring of the student’s response to intervention Support of the student’s improved behavior

75 What Must the School Do? Follow recognized standards Remember: 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

76 Some Cautions Faulty reasoning: expulsion alone solves the problem
Truth: expulsion may escalate violence if necessary supports are not provided Error: focusing solely on how to discipline

77 What Else Have We Learned?
Virginia Threat Assessment Study Cherry Creek School District, Colorado Data Now we will discuss the results of the threat assessment field testing.

78 Virginia Study: Grade Levels for 188 Student Threats of Violence
6 27 14 10 28 23 20 8 3 5 15 25 30 K 1 2 4 7 9 11 12 . Number of threats Overall, there were 188 threats reported to school authorities during the course of the school year. There were likely many threats between students that were not reported to school authorities. Peak at middle school, with another peak in grades 3-4 (transient threats).

79 Cherry Creek Schools Danger Assessments 2003-04/2004-05 Comparison
Cherry Creek Schools, Colorado: Total=201 danger assessments over 2 years About .5% of student body 48,000 students in district 65 sites Peaks in middle school and 9-10th grades Similar trend in comparison with others across the country Again, this parallels incidents of harassment and bullying. Total=90 Total=111

80 Virginia Study: Student and Victim Gender
Male Victim Female Boy Made Threat 51% 27% Girl Made 10% 13% 78% Boys made the majority of threats and usually threatened another male. Girls threatened male and females about equally. 23% (Cornell, D. et al., 2004)

81 Cherry Creek Schools Danger Assessments by Gender Elementary, Middle, and High Schools 2003-2005
‘03-’04: This data also confirms more boys than girls at all levels, but percentages of girls were higher in middle school grades. ‘04-’05:

82 Virginia Study: Student and Victim Special Ed Status
Not Spec Ed Victim Spec Ed Regular Ed Threat 52% 3% 32% 13% 55% Although only about 15% of the enrollment were receiving special education services in Virginia, these students made nearly half of the threats. There were relatively few cases of a student in the regular education program threatening a student receiving special education services. 45% N = 155. (Cornell, D. & Sheras, P., 2006)

83 Cherry Creek Schools: Percentage of Danger Assessments that Involved Special Education Students
: Elementary 47% (n=7) Middle 45% (n=17) High 51% (n=19) : Elementary 45% (n=10) Middle 39% (n=20) High 53% (n=20) Similar results in percentages of special educaiton students making threats or receiving danger assessments. About 14% of Cherry Creek School District students are Special Ed. 1.5% of district students are SED 35% of district students who are expelled are Special Ed. Why are 50% of danger assessment on students in Special Ed? Possibly because Special Ed students are more closely monitored and therefore more easy to be identified when early warning signs emerge. ***Danger Assessments with Special Ed students should lead to an IEP Review (which could possibly lead to FBA, Psychological eval.,, etc.) These findings are consistent with a study that was done in Virginia, with 35 schools where 46% of threat assessments were for Special Education students.

84 Special Education Considerations

85 Special Education Considerations In The Threat Inquiry Process
At any point, the team may uncover evidence or suspicion of a “suspected disability” Assessment plan is necessary when determination of disability is examined If new or additional disability becomes suspect, assess in ALL areas of suspected disability If during the mental health assessment/inquiry, evidence of suspected disability is uncovered, get parent permission for a full special education eligibility determination Do we need this slide? Where did it come from?

86 Suspending Special Education Students
If you suspend the student 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 Review of records, interviews and student observation 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—there are no special education requirements

87 Some “Threat” Intentions (functional hypotheses for FBA)
To get attention from peers or adults To protest something, to express anger or frustration To get status from others, or to frighten or coerce peers To joke, “playing around” To communicate an intent to attack


89 What Should School Psychologists Do to Protect Themselves from Liability?
Follow recognized standards when possible. Courts do not expect school psychologists and other team members to predict or prevent all violence. Make reasonable decisions. Maintain adequate documentation. School psychologists can protect themselves from legal liability in a case of a student-perpetrated act of violence. The most important legal issue is whether the school psychologist followed the accepted standard of care for his or her field. Perfection is not required. Post hoc records are inadequate. Instead, courts consider whether someone has met the professional standard of care for their field of practice. Standards for student threat assessment are still developing.

90 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) Safety takes priority over confidentiality in an emergency.

91 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 Information can pass from one school to the next if there is legitimate educational need.

92 Standard of Care: Can You Prove It?
School districts meet the required standard of care when they conduct reasonable threat inquiries Do you have a pre-established process? Have you adopted safe school plan with an explicit threat assessment protocol? Have you trained your staff? Is there a written summary of threat inquiry process, conclusions, and recommendations? Is your process consistent with best practices and US Department of Education (Secret Service) Guidelines? Just “winging it” can leave you liable, you must establish a standard of care with processes to ensure the fair and effective response to a threat of violence. 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.

93 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 741

94 Duty to Warn Psychologists, psychiatrists and physicians have a duty to warn Therapist knew his patient intended to kill a woman. Patient killed woman and the parents of the victim successfully sued the therapist. When patient presents a serious danger of violence to another, a therapist must use reasonable care to protect the intended victim against such danger. Tarasoff v. Regents of University of California (1976) 17 Cal.3d 425

95 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


97 Threat assessment is part of a larger comprehensive model for school safety.
This version of the triangle model is similar to IDEIA, PBS, RTI, etc. It is from Cornell and Sheras book. Focus on Prevention for ALL students! Have interventions for At-Risk youth. Provide intensive services for those with serious behavior problems.

98 Threat Assessment is Only Part of a Comprehensive Approach to
School Safety Threat prevention & management should draw upon effective violence prevention programs available in the school.

99 Effective Threat Assessment Can Only Occur in a Larger Context of School Safety
Schools in which students, teachers and administrators pay attention to student’s social and emotional needs, as well as their academic needs, will have fewer situations that require formal threat assessments. In such a climate, adults and students respect each other. Diversity and difference are respected. Students develop the capacity to talk and openly share concerns. Conflict is managed and mediated constructively. A safe and caring learning environment will foster academic achievement and pro-social behavior. Such and environment will also have fewer situations of concern that require formal threat assessments. Respect for differences is promoted. Adults as well as students must show respect for each other. Students must feel supported by the school and by fellow students. The environment must feel safe for students to openly share concerns and break the code of silence. Kanan, L. & Lee, R., 2005

100 Effective Threat Assessment Can Only Occur in a Larger Context of School Safety
Students try to help fellow students who are in distress. Problems are raised and addressed before they become serious. Positive connections are created between adults and students. Students are willing to break the “code of silence”. Address problems at the lower end of the violence continuum. Trash talk, bullying, put downs, pushing. “We don’t talk to each other like that in this school”. Have ways for students to share their concerns. Breaking the code of silence around potentially dangerous behavior is essential. Help students understand the difference between tattling and telling when there is a possibility of danger. Must be planned and thoughtful. School safety is not just hardware, cameras, etc., but it is about climate. Assessment of your school’s climate is necessary to help understand your community’s needs. National data is only a guide. What are your problem areas? What are the most concerning types of disciplinary referrals? Is there a pattern? Kanan, L. & Lee, R., 2005

101 Components and Tasks for Creating a Safe/Connected School Climate
Assessment of the school’s emotional climate. Emphasis on the importance of listening in schools. Adoption of a strong, but caring stance against the “code of silence”. Prevention and intervention in bullying. Involvement of the school community in planning, creating, and sustaining a culture of safety and respect. Development of trusting relationships between each student and at least one adult at school. Creation of mechanisms for developing and sustaining safe school climates. Assessment of your school’s climate is necessary to help understand your community’s needs. National data is only a guide. What are your problem areas? What are the most concerning types of disciplinary referrals? Is there a pattern? Help student understand the difference between tattling and telling when there is a possibility of danger. What is your school doing to take a stand against bullying? State law requires programming to address bullying. Support ways to connect students to at least one adult at school. Mentoring programs, teacher assistant, build it into behavior plans. Resiliency research supports this. Must be planned and thoughtful. School safety is not just hardware, cameras, etc., but it is about climate. Does your school have a safety committee? Do you get input from staff, parents, and students? (Kanan, L. & Lee, R., 2005)

102 NASP Threat Assessment Workgroup Members:
Dewey Cornell, Ph.D.; Professor; University of Virginia Sally Dorman, Psy.D.; School Psychologist; Charles County Public Schools, MD Gina Hurley, Ed.D.; Director of Student Service; Barnstable Public Schools, MA Linda M. Kanan, Ph.D.; District Intervention Specialist; Cherry Creek School District, CO Jill Sharkey, Ph.D.; Assistant Researcher/School Psychologist; UC Santa Barbara Kathy Sievering; MA, MA; School Psychologist; Jefferson County Schl District, CO Melinda K. Susan, M.A.; School Psychologist; Sonoma Co. Office of Education, CA Paul G. Webb, Ed.D; Threat Assessment and Crisis Management Psychologist; Clark County School District, NV Diana Browning Wright, M.S.; Statewide PENT Director; California Department of Education-Diagnostic Center-South Thanks to the following NASP Threat Assessment workgroup members from all over the country who volunteered their time to put together this presentation and related training materials. Note: Jill, Please add school district or university location next to each person’s name. Also titles. (PhD, NCSP, etc.)

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