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/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/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/Area-Based Teams: The district may have a hub & spoke arrangement of one central team that provides oversight, consistency and accountability for all Threat Assessment processes (and manages threats impacting the whole district), as well as individual teams that address cases in their respective areas of responsibility, but all information 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 – 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 last one for 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/relevant legal counsel input (e.g., on questions such as FERPA exceptions, compliance with legal requirements).