Threat Assessments and Student Records

by | Jan 10, 2024 | Gary's Blog

Like many other states, in Ohio schools, behavioral threat assessment teams’ function to conduct assessments and interventions for individuals whose behavior indicates they may pose a risk of harm to the school community and/or themselves.

Behavioral Threat Assessment:

In K-12 schools, a behavioral threat assessment is a proactive approach to identify, assess, and provide appropriate interventions and resources for students who display a behavior that elicits concern for the safety of themselves or others.

Responding to a fire at a school building

The Purpose of Threat Assessments

Schools conduct Threat Assessments on specific students as a systematic process to assess the potential risk of violence posed by individuals expressing the intent to cause harm. This involves a thorough evaluation of the context and circumstances surrounding the threat, aiming to uncover any evidence indicating the likelihood of the threat being realized. The primary goal of threat assessment is to develop targeted interventions and follow-up activities that effectively manage and mitigate the risk of violence.

Risk Factors Versus Warning Signs

Risk factors are the ecological and personal features in a student’s life than increase the statistical probability of the student engaging in violent behavior.

As stated in the Ventura County of Education “Warning Signs of Potentially Violent Behavior document”, many students exhibit warnings signs; yet pose no immediate danger to themselves or others. It is important to recognize patterns of behavior or combinations of warning signs that indicate the need for further assessment. Many of these are present in non-violent individuals and there is evidence that some violence prone individuals demonstrate no evidence of any of these signs. However, observations and feedback will be helpful in the investigation and resolution of potential violent incidents upon the review of a threat assessment team. School personnel should report their observance or suspicion of violent thoughts or behavior to the school administration, psychologist, or counselor and request further assessment.

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Risk factors

The following are possible risk factors, but are not all-inclusive:

Family History:

  • Domestic Violence
  • Substance Abuse
  • Emotional, Physical, and/or Sexual Abuse
  • Neglect

Early Indicators of Violent Tendencies:

  • Fire setting
  • Cruelty to animals
  • Interested in real and/or fictional violence
  • Early initiation of problem behaviors (K-3rd grade)

Individual Factors:

  • Low commitment to school
  • Early academic failure
  • Aggression

Mental Health Factors:

  • Suicidal / Homicidal
  • Substance abuse or dependence
  • Low / Inflated self-esteem
  • Impulsivity
  • Real or perceived loss / grief

Criminal Background:

  • Past violent acts / crimes
  • Past non-violent acts
  • Probation / incarceration

Social Factors:

  • Foster care
  • Homelessness
  • Violent or antisocial peer group membership

Environmental / Situational Factors:

  • Inconsistent implementation of policies and/or other discipline
  • Lack of safe school plan
  • No reporting mechanism in place for students or staff to annonymously report threats
  • Faculty that does not respond to complaints / threats
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warning signs

The following are warning signs, but are not all-inclusive:

Verbal Clues:

  • Domestic Violence
  • Substance Abuse
  • Emotional, Physical, and/or Sexual Abuse
  • Neglect

Behavioral or Physical Clues:

  • Physical altercation / assault upon another person – frequent fighting
  • Drawings and other creative outlets with persistent or intense violent themes
  • Destruction of property
  • Deteriorating physical appearance and self-care
  • Rebellion against school authority

Bizarre Thoughts:

  • Persecutory delusions with self as victim
  • Paranoid
  • Grandiose delusions that involve power, control, destruction

Obsessions:

  • Self as victim of an individual
  • Object of desire
  • Perceived injustices, humiliations, disrespect
  • Historically violent figures
  • Violent music and other media
  • Stalking

Records Retention and Sharing

The completed behavioral threat assessment form and associated corroborating documents should be maintained as a part of the student of concern’s education record. Should a student transfer to another school district, there is no legal requirement to prevent the receiving school district from viewing these records.

For example, if a student transfers to another school district to avoid expulsion, it does not mean that this student no longer poses a risk. Information regarding the student’s threatening/concerning behavior and actions taken to mitigate such behaviors should be shared with the receiving school district as soon as possible. If an expulsion process has been initiated as a result of prohibited/concerning behavior, regardless of whether a student transfers to another school district, the expulsion process should be completed.

what should be included in a student's record

While every school may use different reports, this comprehensive Threat Assessment guide developed by the Ventura County Office of Education and the Threat Assessment Forms developed by the Illinois Valley Community College detail important information that should be collected during an assessment.

Upon completion, this information should remain with the respective student’s permanent record.

As we have seen in all targeted acts of violence at schools, there are always warning signs.  We call these ‘dots’.  In order to connect the dots we must collect the dots. 

Your threat assessment team is the funnel to connect the dots.

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