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Loudoun County

Public Schools

Threat Assessment

Picture of a book titled Guidelines for Responding to Student Threats of Violence

Threat Assessment Questions and Answers

  • What is Threat Assessment?

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    Threat assessment is a behavioral approach to violence prevention that focuses on threats and other forms of student conflict before they escalate into violent behavior.  The threat assessment team uses a problem solving team approach to evaluate the risk of violence posed by someone and to intervene and resolve the issues that underlie the threatening behavior.

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  • What approach to threat assessment does LCPS use?

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    LCPS has been implementing the Virginia Student Threat Assessment Guidelines, an evidence-based model developed by Dr. Dewey Cornell and colleagues at the University of Virginia. The guidelines were published in the Guidelines for Responding to Student Threats of Violence manual and have been widely adopted by schools in Virginia and other states. 

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  • Is threat assessment required?

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    Yes.  While LCPS has been implementing threat assessment since 2004, Virginia legislation (§ 22.1-79.4) was passed in 2013 that required that “Each local school board shall adopt policies for the establishment of threat assessment teams, including the assessment of and intervention with students whose behavior may pose a threat to the safety of school staff or students consistent with the model policies developed by the Virginia Center for School and Campus Safety…Each division superintendent shall establish, for each school, a threat assessment team that shall include persons with expertise in counseling, instruction, school administration, and law enforcement.” 

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  • Who is on the Threat Assessment Team?

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    Each school team is comprised of a school administrator, counselor, psychologist, and social worker. Also, a school safety and security specialist and School Resource Officer may be involved in the team process. 

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  • What happens during a threat assessment?

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    The threat assessment model follows three basic steps: identifying a threat, assessing a threat, and responding to a threat.  In the first step, a school administrator such as the principal or assistant principal investigates a reported threat and determines whether the threat can be readily resolved as a minor or "transient" threat.  Examples of transient threats are jokes or statements made in anger that are expressions of feeling or figures of speech rather than expressions of a genuine intent to harm someone. 


    Any threat that cannot be clearly identified and resolved as transient or contains indicators that expresses a sustained intent to harm someone beyond the immediate incident when the threat was made is treated as a "substantive" threat. Substantive threats always require protective action to prevent the threat from being carried out. 

    The remaining steps guide the team through more extensive assessment and response based on the seriousness of the threat. In the most serious cases, the team conducts a safety evaluation that includes both law enforcement involvement and a mental health assessment of the student and develops a safety plan that is designed to address the problem or conflict underlying the threat and prevent the act of violence from taking place.  For both transient and substantive threats, there is an emphasis on helping students to resolve conflicts and minimizing the use of suspension as a disciplinary response.
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Last Modified on September 1, 2016

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