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Threat Assessment and Threat Management in the Schools Threat Assessment Workgroup. National Association of School Psychologists Annual Convention 2006 Anaheim, CA. Jill D. Sharkey, PhD, NCSP University of California, Santa Barbara Linda M. Kanan, PhD, NCSP Cherry Creek School District

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threat assessment and threat management in the schools threat assessment workgroup
Threat Assessment and Threat Management in the Schools Threat Assessment Workgroup

National Association of School Psychologists

Annual Convention 2006

Anaheim, CA

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

Introduction of Speakers
how much violence occurs in u s schools
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 (1992-93 to 2001-02) there were 93 student homicides, or 9.3 per year.
slide5

Causes of Death in Young PersonsAges 5 to 24

Source: National Vital Statistics Report, 1998 and National School Safety Center

slide6

Serious Discipline Violations in U.S. Schools

“Serious” means expulsion, transfer or suspension of 5 or more days

Source: National Center for Education Statistics (2004) Data for 1999-2000 school year

student perpetrated homicides in u s schools 1992 93 to 2002 03
Student-Perpetrated Homicides in U.S. Schools:1992-93 to 2002-03

Cases on school grounds during school day recorded by National School Safety Center.

slide8

Understanding Student Violence

Troubled

students

Students

who engage

in general

violence

Targeted

school

shooters

(Kanan, L. & Sievering, K.)

the e xpansion of zero tolerance
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

what is threat assessment
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.
how does threat assessment differ from zero tolerance
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
what are the purposes of threat assessment
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.
threat assessment process as a continuum
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

slide14

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

who conducts threat assessment
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

what is involved in a school threat assessment process
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.
what is a threat
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.
what is a threat18
What is a Threat?

Direct Threat

-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

Report Threats Verbatim

examples of verbal threats
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”
two government studies recommend school based threat assessment
Two Government Studies Recommend School-Based Threat Assessment

Secret Service and U.S. Department of Education report (2002) Available at www.edpubs.org/webstore

FBI report (2000)Available at www.fbi.gov

slide22

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)

profiling does not work
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.
slide24

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)

lessons learned final report findings of the safe school initiative 2002
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

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

Lessons Learned: Final Report & Findings of the Safe School Initiative, 2002
slide26

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.
key points about threat assessment
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
slide28

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.
  • Makinga threat is not the same as posing a threat. Ask “Is this student on a path toward an attack?”
secret service threat assessment inquiry
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
11 key questions
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?
11 key questions cont
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?

no magic formula or crystal ball
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.

will threat assessment work
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.
virginia study design
Virginia Study Design
  • 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.

Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. (2006). Guidelines for

Responding to student threats of violence.

Longmont, CO: Sopris.

slide37

Team roles in Virginia Model

Schools may further specify team roles and include other staff to meet local needs.

(Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

how does threat assessment begin
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.

(Adapted from Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

slide39

Threat is substantive.

Threat is serious.

Virginia Model-Threat Reported to Principal

Step 1. Evaluate Threat.

Step 2. Decide if threat is clearly transient or substantive.

Threat is clearly transient.

Step 3. Respond to transient threat.

Step 4. Decide if the substantive threat is serious or very 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)

virginia study model step 1 evaluate the threat
Virginia Study ModelStep 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.

(Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

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.

Types of ThreatsTransient v. Substantive

(Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

virginia study model step 2 transient or substantive
Virginia Study ModelStep 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.

(Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

slide43

Transient Versus Substantive Threats

In Virginia Study

SubstantiveThreats 30%

TransientThreats 70%

(Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

substantive threats factors to consider
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.

(Adapted from Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

presumptive indicators of substantive threats
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.)

(Adapted from Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

virginia study model step 3 responses to a transient threat
Virginia Study ModelStep 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.

(Adapted from Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

threat assessment is distinct from discipline
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
who made transient threats

30

25

24

22

20

Number of transient threats

15

15

13

10

10

9

8

7

7

6

6

5

5

0

0

K

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

.

Who Made Transient Threats?

(Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

virginia study model step 4 serious or very serious substantive threat
Virginia Study ModelStep 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.

(Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

who made substantive threats

20

15

13

11

Number of substantive threats

10

10

5

5

4

3

3

3

2

1

1

0

0

0

K

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

.

Who Made Substantive Threats?

(Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

virginia study model step 5 respond to serious substantive threat
Virginia Study ModelStep 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.

(Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

immediate responses to a very serious substantive threat
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.

(Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

slide53

Very Serious Cases Were Relatively

Rare in Virginia Study

Very Serious

15 (8%)

SubstantiveThreats

Serious

42 (22%)

(Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

N=188

TransientThreats

131 (70%)

slide54

Very Serious Substantive Threats

Threat is substantive.

Threat is clearly transient.

Threat is serious.

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.

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)

virginia study model step 6 conduct a safety evaluation for a very serious substantive threat
Virginia Study ModelStep 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.

(Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

slide56

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.

(Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

sources of information for mental health assessment
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

(Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

slide58

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

primary purpose of a student interview
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

(Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

student interview
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

(Adapted from Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

parent interview
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

(Adapted from Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

virginia study model step 7 follow up with action plan
Virginia Study ModelStep 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

(Adapted from Cornell, D. & Sheras, P. 2006)

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)

Assessing Writtenor Artistic Material
reasons to monitor and to work with parents
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)

cherry creek schools colorado danger assessment process
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)
cherry creek schools colorado sources of information before determining risk
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

(Cherry Creek Schools, Kanan, L. & Lee, R., 2003)

cherry creek schools colorado evaluate the information
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

(Cherry Creek Schools, Kanan, L. & Lee, R., 2003)

fbi risk continuum
FBI Risk Continuum

O’Toole, M.E. (August, 2000). The school shooter: A threat assessment perspective.

Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Justice. Available: www.fbi.gov

designing action plans interventions
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
interventions in summary
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)

slide74

ASSESS

REFER

SUPPORT

MONITOR

Interventions: Handle with Care

A.R.M.S.

what must the school do
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
some cautions
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

what else have we learned
What Else Have We Learned?
  • Virginia Threat Assessment Study
  • Cherry Creek School District, Colorado Data
virginia study grade levels for 188 student threats of violence

30

28

27

27

25

23

20

20

Number of threats

15

14

10

10

10

8

6

6

6

5

3

0

K

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

.

Virginia Study:Grade Levels for 188 Student Threats of Violence
virginia study student and victim gender
Virginia Study:Student and Victim Gender

78%

23%

(Cornell, D. et al., 2004)

cherry creek schools danger assessments by gender elementary middle and high schools 2003 2005
Cherry Creek SchoolsDanger Assessments by GenderElementary, Middle, and High Schools2003-2005

‘03-’04:

‘04-’05:

virginia study student and victim special ed status
Virginia Study:Student and Victim Special Ed Status

55%

45%

N = 155.

(Cornell, D. & Sheras, P., 2006)

cherry creek schools percentage of danger assessments that involved special education students
Cherry Creek Schools:Percentage of Danger Assessments that Involved Special Education Students

2003-04:

Elementary 47% (n=7)

Middle 45% (n=17)

High 51% (n=19)

2004-05:

Elementary 45% (n=10)

Middle 39% (n=20)

High 53% (n=20)

special education considerations in the threat inquiry process
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
suspending special education students
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
some threat intentions functional hypotheses for fba
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
slide89

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.
slide90

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 99.36 (a)
slide91

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 99.36 (b)3
standard of care can you prove it
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?
what is reasonable care
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

duty to warn
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

access to records duty to warn conclusions
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
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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.

effective threat assessment can only occur in a larger context of school safety
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.

Kanan, L. & Lee, R., 2005

effective threat assessment can only occur in a larger context of school safety100
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”.

Kanan, L. & Lee, R., 2005

components and tasks for creating a safe connected school climate
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.

(Kanan, L. & Lee, R., 2005)

nasp threat assessment workgroup members
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