Threat Assessment and Management for Educators and Administrators

4.0 Where Does Threat Assessment Come from and Why Does it Work?

As you begin the process of implementing threat assessment management, let’s examine what needs to be accomplished. Take a moment to reflect on the Self-Assessment graphic. What do school stakeholders need to know and be able to do in order to effectively perform one or more of the following critical threat assessment activities?

Referrals. School stakeholders such as teachers, support staff, students, and parents are all critical sources for finding out about threats or threatening behaviors and referring them to the threat assessment team. This raises important issues and questions such as:

  • What mechanisms need to be in place for stakeholders to quickly, accurately, and effectively notify the threat assessment team?
  • Stakeholders need to view themselves as mandated reporters, not judges. Their function is to provide notification and information of all threats or concerns, not to screen, investigate, or determine the severity or validity of what they have discovered.
  • What training or information do these stakeholders need to effectively contribute referrals as part of the threat assessment process?

Participation. Some school stakeholders will be on-going and/or case by case members of the threat assessment team. The team must be multidisciplinary in nature and should include both permanent and ad hoc members from teaching, administration, law enforcement, mental health, and other social service agencies. Things to consider include:

  • Identifying appropriate school stakeholders to assume these functions on a permanent basis as part of the team.
  • Identifying appropriate school stakeholders who may participate in a specific threat assessment investigation based on their proximity, relationship, or knowledge of the individual of concern.
  • Determining what type of training is required for individuals who are on-going threat assessment team members. (More on this later in the toolkit)
  • Determining what type of training is necessary for ad-hoc individuals to participate in the process on a case by case basis.

Coordination. Someone in the school needs to be the threat assessment coordinator, or “the top of the funnel” through which referrals come. Most likely this will be an administrator or other building leader. This individual will require more extensive training and support as his/her responsibilities will include:

  • Facilitating the identification and training of threat assessment team members from appropriate disciplines/areas.
  • Leading the formation of appropriate policies, procedures, and logistical concerns about the threat assessment process including referrals, investigations, management plans, documentation, and reporting.
  • Activating and leading the threat assessment team when referrals are received.

The State of Virginia is a leader in implementing threat assessment in public schools. For an analysis of the “quantity and quality” of threat assessment cases in Virginia schools, consult the following report.

Technical Report of the Threat Assessment Survey for 2013-2014

An updated study by the same authors was issued in August of 2017.

Student Threat Assessment as a Standard School Safety Practice