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Threat Assessment and Threat Management in the Schools Threat Assessment Workgroup

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Title: Threat Assessment and Threat Management in the Schools Threat Assessment Workgroup


1
Threat Assessment and Threat Management in the
Schools Threat Assessment Workgroup
National Association of School Psychologists Annua
l Convention 2006 Anaheim, CA
2
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

3
(No Transcript)
4
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.

5
Causes of Death in Young PersonsAges 5 to 24
Source National Vital Statistics Report, 1998
and National School Safety Center
6
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
7
Student-Perpetrated Homicides in U.S.
Schools1992-93 to 2002-03
Cases on school grounds during school day
recorded by National School Safety Center.
8
Understanding Student Violence
Troubled students
Students who engage in general violence
Targeted school shooters
(Kanan, L. Sievering, K.)
9
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
10
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.

11
How Does Threat Assessment Differ From Zero
Tolerance?
  • Threat assessment considers the context and
    meaning of a students behavior, not just the
    behavior itself.
  • Threat assessment is designed to determine the
    seriousness or danger of a students behavior,
    and to respond accordingly.
  • Threat assessment permits flexibility in how
    schools respond and does not require the same
    severe consequence for all infractions

12
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.

13
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

14

When Should a Threat Assessment be Conducted?
  • When information about a students behavior and
    communications passes an agreed upon threshold of
    concern
  • U.S. Secret Service Threat Assessment in
    Schools Guide, p. 48

15
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

16
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.

17
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. (Im 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.

18
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
19
Examples of Verbal Threats
  • Direct
  • Im 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 dont give me an A on my report card, I
    will shoot you
  • Veiled
  • Its understandable why Columbine happened

20
THREAT ASSESSMENTLITERATURE
21
Two Government Studies Recommend School-Based
Threat Assessment
Secret Service and U.S. Department of Education
report (2002) Available at www.edpubs.org/webstor
e
FBI report (2000)Available at www.fbi.gov
22
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)
23
Profiling Does Not Work
  • School shootings are too rare.
  • Profiles make false predictions.
  • Profiles generate stereotypes.
  • Profiles dont solve problems.
  • Be careful that warning signs are not used to
    profile students.

24
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)
25
Lessons Learned Final Report Findings of the
Safe School Initiative, 2002
  • 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
  • Incidents of violence were rarely sudden,
    impulsive acts
  • Other people knew about the attackers 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

26
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.

27
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 students actions
    constitute a threat, investigate the behavior as
    a threat

28
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.
  • Making a threat is not the same as posing a
    threat. Ask Is this student on a path toward an
    attack?

29
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

30
11 Key Questions
  • What are the students 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?

31
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 students words consistent
with actions? 10. Are others concerned about
student? 11. What circumstances might trigger
violence?
32
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.
33
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.

34
http//youthviolence.edschool.virginia.edu
434-924-8929
35
Virginia Study Design
Cornell, D. Sheras, P. (2006). Guidelines
for Responding to student threats of violence.
Longmont, CO Sopris.
  • 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.

36
SCHOOL THREAT ASSESSMENTPROCESS
37
Team roles in Virginia Model
Schools may further specify team roles and
include other staff to meet local needs.
(Cornell, D. Sheras, P. 2006)
38
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)
39
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)
40
Virginia Study Model Step 1. Evaluate the
threat.
  • Obtain an account of the threat and the context
    from the student and witnesses.
  • Write down the exact threat.
  • Obtain students explanation of the threats
    meaning and his/her intentions.
  • Obtain witness perceptions of the threats
    meaning.

(Cornell, D. Sheras, P. 2006)
41
Types of ThreatsTransient 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.

(Cornell, D. Sheras, P. 2006)
42
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)
43
Transient Versus Substantive Threats In Virginia
Study
SubstantiveThreats 30
TransientThreats 70
(Cornell, D. Sheras, P. 2006)
44
Substantive ThreatsFactors 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
  • Students discipline history
  • When in doubt, treat threats as substantive.

(Adapted from Cornell, D. Sheras, P. 2006)
45
Presumptive Indicators of Substantive Threats
  • Specific, plausible details. (I am going to
    blast Mr. Johnson with my pistol.)
  • Threat has been repeated over time. (Hes 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)
46
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)
47
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

48
Who Made Transient Threats?
(Cornell, D. Sheras, P. 2006)
49
Virginia Study ModelStep 4. Serious or Very
Serious Substantive Threat?
  • Substantive assault threats are classified
    serious. (Im gonna beat him up.)
  • Substantive threats to kill, rape, or inflict
    very serious injury are classified very serious.
    (Im gonna break his arm.)
  • Substantive threats involving a weapon are
    classified very serious.

(Cornell, D. Sheras, P. 2006)
50
Who Made Substantive Threats?
(Cornell, D. Sheras, P. 2006)
51
Virginia Study ModelStep 5. Respond to Serious
Substantive Threat.
  • Take precautions to protect potential victims.
    May consult with law enforcement.
  • Notify intended victim and victims parents.
  • Notify students 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)
52
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 victims parents.
  • Notify students parents.
  • Begin Mental Health Assessment.
  • Determine safety during suspension.

(Cornell, D. Sheras, P. 2006)
53
Very Serious Cases Were Relatively Rare in
Virginia Study
Very Serious 15 (8)
SubstantiveThreats
Serious 42 (22)
(Cornell, D. Sheras, P. 2006)
N188
TransientThreats 131 (70)
54
Very Serious Substantive Threats
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)
55
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)
56
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)
57
Sources of Information for Mental Health
Assessment
  • Mental health professional should interview
  • Student
  • Intended victim/witnesses
  • Students 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)
58
Mental Health Assessment FAQs
  • 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

59
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 students 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)
60
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)
61
Parent Interview
  • Question parents 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 parents 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)
62
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)
63
Assessing Writtenor 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)

64
Case ExamplesWritten and Artistic Threats
65
Reasons to Monitor and to Work With Parents
  • Items found in Eric Harriss car
  • Similar items were found in Dylan Klebolds car
  • (Sievering, K. 2004)

66
Fireworks Found in Columbine Shooters Home
(Sievering, K. 2004)
67
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)
68
Cherry Creek Schools, ColoradoSources 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)
69
Cherry Creek Schools, ColoradoEvaluate 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)
70
FBI Risk Continuum
OToole, M.E. (August, 2000). The school shooter
A threat assessment perspective. Federal Bureau
of Investigation, U.S. Department of Justice.
Available www.fbi.gov
71
Cherry Creek Schools, ColoradoDanger Assessments
by Level of Concern Over Two School Years
72
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

73
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)

74
Interventions Handle with Care
A.R.M.S.
75
What Must the School Do?
  • Follow recognized standards
  • Remember ARMS
  • Assess-with care, to the depth necessary, using
    multiple informantsstudent, 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

76
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

77
What Else Have We Learned?
  • Virginia Threat Assessment Study
  • Cherry Creek School District, Colorado Data

78
Virginia StudyGrade Levels for 188 Student
Threats of Violence
79
Cherry Creek SchoolsDanger Assessments
2003-04/2004-05 Comparison
Total90
Total111
80
Virginia StudyStudent and Victim Gender
78
23
(Cornell, D. et al., 2004)
81
Cherry Creek SchoolsDanger Assessments by
GenderElementary, Middle, and High
Schools2003-2005
03-04
04-05
82
Virginia StudyStudent and Victim Special Ed
Status
55
45
N 155.
(Cornell, D. Sheras, P., 2006)
83
Cherry Creek SchoolsPercentage of Danger
Assessments that Involved Special Education
Students
2003-04 Elementary 47 (n7) Middle 45
(n17) High 51 (n19) 2004-05 Elementary
45 (n10) Middle 39 (n20) High 53
(n20)
84
Special Education Considerations
85
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

86
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
    cumulativethere are no special education
    requirements

87
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

88
LEGAL CONSIDERATIONS
89
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.

90
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)

91
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

92
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?

93
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

94
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

95
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 PREVENTION AND INTERVENTION
97
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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.

99
Effective Threat Assessment Can Only Occur in a
Larger Context of School Safety
  • Schools in which students, teachers and
    administrators pay attention to students 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
100
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
101
Components and Tasks for Creating a
Safe/Connected School Climate
  • Assessment of the schools 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)
102
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
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