Behavioral Threat Assessment and Management for Educators and Administrators
9.0 Developing and Operating a Threat Assessment Team
Threat Assessment Team
The primary component of a threat assessment program is a multi-disciplinary threat assessment and management team. Involving members from an array of disciplines enhances the team’s ability to:
- Identify developing concerns/threats.
- Gather information from multiple sources and organizational silos.
- Maximize skills and resources to address concerns.
- Monitor outcomes.
- Enhance the district’s/school’s overall ability to:
Communicate (to, from, and within the team).
Collaborate (working together for the best awareness and outcomes).
Coordinate (engaging in purposeful planning and coordination of actions and interventions within the team and with outside partners).
Team Roles and Responsibilities
Each member of a school threat assessment team should be aware of his or her role and responsibilities. Roles and responsibilities for school threat assessment teams typically include:
Threat Assessment Team Structure – Options for PreK-12 Schools
Schools and school districts can structure their threat assessment team(s) to meet their needs based on the number of schools involved as well as resources available. There are several options for building a threat assessment program in PreK-12 schools or districts:
- One District-Wide Team: Districts may opt to operate one Threat Assessment team to serve all schools within the district. Districts that have only one team may also choose to operate small screening teams in each school within the district. A school-based screening team can screen cases from that school to determine which situations to refer to the district Threat Assessment team.(DTAT = Division/District Threat Assessment Team, STAT = School Threat Assessment Team)
- Multiple School or Area-Based Teams: The district may opt to develop teams for each school or for groups of schools (by geographic area, grade level, function, etc.).
- District-Level Team and Multiple School or Area-Based Teams: The district may have a hub and spoke arrangement of one central team that provides oversight, consistency, and accountability for all threat assessment processes and manages threats impacting the whole district. There may also be individual teams that address cases in their respective areas of responsibility, but all information is shared with the central team.
Finally, smaller districts, or those not well resourced, may opt to build a regional team as a resource for all schools in the service area.
Maximizing Effectiveness of the Team
Team membership should not be viewed only in terms of what positions or offices are represented on the team. Team membership can also factor in which types of individuals may be best suited to serve on a threat assessment team.
In choosing team members, team functioning is enhanced if the following skills and attributes are exhibited by the team members:
- People who are passionate about the goals of the team and who believe prevention is possible.
- People who are familiar with and trained in threat assessment principles and practices.
- People who are inquisitive and can have a skeptical mindset for work on the team.
- People who exercise good sense of judgment, and who are objective and thorough.
- People who relate well with others and can work well in a group.
- A team chair or leader who can effectively lead team discussion and keep the team on track.
- People who can advocate for necessary resources for the team and for individuals of concern.
Other Resources and Approaches to Increase Team Effectiveness
Threat Assessment teams can work proactively to develop, research, implement, and enhance other resources that can help the threat assessment process work more effectively. Considerations include:
- Identify and list local resources (school-based, campus-based, and/or community-based): community mental health services, child protective services, law enforcement crisis response units, emergency psychiatric screening services, etc.
- Establish liaisons with community resources and secure access (including after-hours): proactively build relationships and update information yearly.
- Develop relationships with other school districts: be familiar with what other regional school districts do for their threat management programs. The team’s next case may be the previous one from another school district.
- Identify state-level resources: guidance and technical assistance from state board of education, school board association, union, state center for school safety, and law enforcement fusion center.
- Identify potential subject matter expertise: what resources does the team have access to regarding implications when disabilities are present, independent violent risk assessments, tracking social media threats, etc.
- Access informed and relevant legal counsel input (e.g., on questions such as FERPA exceptions, compliance with legal requirements).
The Fidelity of School Behavioral Threat Assessment Implementation Tool assists threat assessment teams in identifying where school behavioral threat assessment practices stand in relation to the guidelines and best practices learned while attending the school behavioral threat assessment training provided by the Texas School Safety Center.
A number of threat assessment and management instruments and/or checklists exist that may serve as a basis for the development of threat assessment protocols and procedures. These range from sample interview questions to actual documentation forms. Please note that these checklists and forms should not be adopted or applied without adequate training and planning to implement them.
This checklist, based off the National Threat Assessment Center’s recommendations, assists administrators to create and/or evaluate their schools threat assessment process.
The School Behavioral Threat Assessment Screening Tool supports threat assessment teams in common situations where they are unsure if they should conduct a threat assessment or not. This tool is designed to be used as a guide to determine if conducting a threat assessment is necessary. This tool is formatted as an editable PDF file.
This resource provides the 11 key questions from the U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Department of Education to guide data collection in a threat assessment inquiry.