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Responding to students in crisis and at-risk students: What is the reasonable professional response?. Michael Mardis, Dean of Students Christian Gamm, Admissions Counselor, Senior University of Louisville. Presentation Agenda. Introduction Terminology

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responding to students in crisis and at risk students what is the reasonable professional response

Responding to students in crisis and at-risk students: What is the reasonable professional response?

Michael Mardis, Dean of Students

Christian Gamm, Admissions Counselor, Senior

University of Louisville

presentation agenda
Presentation Agenda
  • Introduction
  • Terminology
  • Impetus behind the creation of threat assessment teams
  • Accepted model of best practice
  • University of Louisville Student Care Team
  • Group Discussion
  • On April 16, 2007, Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed 32 people and wounded many others on Virginia Tech’s campus, before committing suicide.
  • On February 14, 2008, Steven Kazmierczak shot and killed five people and wounded 18 others before committing suicide at Northern Illinois University.
threat assessment team
Threat Assessment Team
  • Often there is a clear lack of authority to fully manage threatening situations and to make critical decisions (Pavela, 2008)
  • “Better communication about troubled students is needed,” so there is a need for a centralized approach to responding to these students(Fischer & Wilson, 2007).
threat assessment team1
Threat Assessment Team
  • Actuarial and clinical approaches to assessing threats can lead to false positives (Redden, 2008).
  • According to the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools, there is no “useful profile” for a school shooter.
  • 93% of crimes students experience occur off campus (Cornell, 2008).
  • Murder rate is 28 times higher off campus than on campus (Cornell, 2008).
  • Students – troubled, at-risk, disabled, disturbed, disruptive
  • Definition of team – threat assessment team, behavioral intervention team, student care team, critical incident response team
  • Profiling v. threat assessment
impetus for creating teams
Impetus for creating teams
  • Research suggests the importance of “active engagement with troubled students sooner rather than later (Pavela, 2007).”
  • Governor’s Report in wake of Virginia Tech shootings; prior to this incident, very few higher education institutions had threat assessment teams
  • Extensive background regarding threat assessment at the elementary and secondary education levels.
roles of threat assessment teams
Roles of threat assessment teams
  • Detect and monitor potentially violent students (Dunkle, Silverstein, & Warner, 2008)
  • Monitor other students who may be troubled or troubling in other ways (Dunkle, Silverstein, & Warner, 2008)
  • Engage troubled students as early as possible, helping them receive appropriate professional help (Pavela, 2008)
  • Coordinate responsive efforts of multiple units
privacy laws
Privacy Laws
  • Often there is confusion regarding what information on troubled students educators and mental health officials can share (Fischer & Wilson, 2007).
  • Mental health professionals are allowed to share information in circumstances where they reasonably believe the client poses an imminent danger of serious injury to themselves or to others (Pavela, 2008).
  • FERPA permits educators to share confidential information with law enforcement, medical personnel, and others without the student’s consent to protect the health and safety of others, including parents (Fischer, 2007).
delworth model of threat assessment
Delworth Model of Threat Assessment
  • Created in 1989
  • Also referred to as a framework, the Assessment-Intervention of Student Problems (AISP) model
  • 3 components
        • Formation of campus assessment team
        • General assessment process for channeling students into the most appropriate on/off campus resources
        • Intervention with the student of concern
delworth model of threat assessment1
Delworth Model of Threat Assessment

From Jablonski, McClellan, & Zdziarski, 2008

flowchart for managing disturbed and disturbing students
Flowchart for Managing Disturbed and Disturbing Students

From Jablonski, McClellan, & Zdziarski, 2008

training for threat assessment teams
Training for threat assessment teams
  • Suggested for members of community and those conducting the actual threat assessment
  • National and regional conferences through the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals (
  • Specialized Training Services (
  • Gavin DeBecker & Associates – Advanced Training Academy for threat assessment professionals
  • QPR – question, persuade, refer
house passes bill to create center for college campus safety
House Passes Bill to Create Center for College Campus Safety
  • On Tuesday, February 4, 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation, the Center to Advance Monitor and Preserve University Security (CAMPUS) Safety Act, to create a center for college campus safety. (administered by Department of Justice)
  • Its purpose is to enable colleges and universities to easily obtain the best information available on how to keep campuses safe and how to respond in the event of a campus emergency.
  • Authorizes $2.8 million in educational and training grants to institutions of higher learning to campus public safety and campus mental health centers.
current standard at kentucky institutions
Current Standard at Kentucky Institutions
  • Threat Assessment Team
  • Behavioral Intervention Team
  • Student Care Team
a rose by any other name would smell as sweet
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet
  • Student Crisis Action Team (SCAT)
  • Communicating Action Response for Emergency (CARE)
  • Care and Action for Students Team (CAST)
  • Student Protection Response Team (SPRT)
  • Action for Students In Suffering Team (ASIST)
  • Ensuring Action for Students in Emergency (EASE)
  • Action Crisis Team for Students (ACTS)
  • Behavioral Assessment Response Council (BARC)
members of u of l student care team
Members of U of L Student Care Team
  • Dean of Students
  • Director of Housing and Residence Life
  • Director of Counseling Center
  • Director of the Department of Public Safety
  • Faculty Representative
  • Medical Director Belknap Campus
  • Assistant Dean of Students (Director of Student Conduct)
  • University of Louisville Properties Representative
  • Enrollment Management Representative
  • Academic Advising Representative
  • (Any of the members may in their absence send an appropriate designee)
  • Adjunct Members
student care team
Student Care Team
  • The purpose of the Student Care Team (SCT) is to provide a regular opportunity for communication between departments, ensuring that all the resources of the University of Louisville are available to students in crisis.
student care team1
Student Care Team
  • A crisis for the purposes of this response plan is an emotionally significant event involving a student that threatens the well-being of one or more individuals or the university community as a whole. A crisis may include personal crises and behavioral issues involving individual students or groups.

The SCT focus is to respond to student needs, attempting to avoid student injury and/or disruption to the integrity of the learning environment.

  • Specific examples may include:
    • suicide attempt or suicide ideation
    • death of a student
    • sexual assault
    • physical assault or other act of violence
    • transport to hospital
    • alcohol, drugs, eating disorders or serious injury
    • classroom disruption
    • any personal tragedy or significant event that might impact a student’s ability to stay in school
the functions of sct
The functions of SCT
  • Respond to a crisis that threatens the well-being of a student, or students. Offer him or her appropriate assistance in various stages of the crisis.
  • Share information and resources among appropriate offices to enhance staff effectiveness and ensure all University resources are made available to students.
  • Serve as a local resource to the university-wide Emergency Response Team in the event of a critical incident.
  • Initiate internal review of the crisis situation and ensure appropriate follow-through (sexual assault; medical withdrawal).
the functions of sct1
The functions of SCT
  • Identify student behaviors that disrupt the learning environment.
  • Provide an opportunity for team members to identify trends and/or patterns of behavior that may impact the campus community by sharing information on a regular basis.
  • Be proactive by exploring issues that occur on other campuses or in the Louisville community that could impact UofL students.
  • Advise University Officials on issues related to student crisis and how it may affect the integrity of the campus community and campus climate.
sct communication
SCT Communication
  • Meeting every two weeks
  • Special emergency meeting
  • Discussion of situations
  • Review of information
  • Determine response
  • Identify point of contact & responsible individual(s)
  • Determine who else we should inform
departmental responsibilities
  • Staff members are expected to respond to student crisis situations based on their existing departmental policies and procedures.
  • When a crisis occurs outside of these normal policies and procedures, staff is expected to contact their Director.
  • If their Director is not available, they should contact the Dean of Students.
  • In an emergency situation, University Police should be contacted immediately.
  • Cornell, D. (2008). No title. NASPA Leadership Exchange.
  • Delworth, U. (1989). Dealing with the behavioral and psychological problems of students. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Dunkle, J.H., Silverstein, Z.B., & Warner, S.L. (2008). Managing violent and other troubling students: The role of threat assessment teams on campus. Journal of College and University Law 34(3), 585-636.
  • Fischer, K., & Wilson, R. (2007). Review panel’s report could reverberate beyond Virginia Tech and Virginia. Chronicle of Higher Education 53.
  • Pavella, G. & Joffe, P. (2007). Responding to troubled and at-risk students. NASPA Webinar. 10/9/2007.
  • Pavella, G. (2008). Colleges won’t help students by fearing them. Chronicle of Higher Education 54(25), A37.
  • Redden, E. (2008). Predicting and preventing campus violence. Inside Higher, 4/7/2008.


Record Keeping/Documentation

Centralized or Decentralized

Staff Training

Parental Notification

Communication with Campus

Privacy Laws


Resources (Time & Funding)

audio online seminar bit magna publications
Audio Online Seminar BITMAGNA Publications

1. Why do we need a BIT?2. Who should be on our team?3. Is there an ideal team size?4. How often should the team meet?5. What are BIT recordkeeping best practices?6. What is the ideal function of a BIT?7. Who performs actual interventions?8. What should a BIT protocol include?9. How formal should the BIT operations be?10. How transparent should BIT operations be?11. What should be reported to the BIT?12. Who should report information to the BIT?13. How should information be reported to the BIT?14. What feedback should reporters receive from the BIT?15. How should the BIT communicate with the campus, and about what?16. What is the role of the counselor(s) on the BIT?17. Who should chair the BIT?18. What are post-intervention best practices?19. How can a BIT foster a culture of reporting?20. How does a BIT successfully address privacy/confidentiality concerns?