Threat Assessment Questions and Answers
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Threat Assessment Online Educational Program
New online educational programs on school safety are available. These brief programs help students aged 12 and up and parents understand the threat assessment process to prevent violence.
The programs were successfully field-tested in 2016-17; all groups demonstrated large gains in knowledge of threat assessment and improved willingness to report threats to school officials after completing the programs.
We encourage all students aged 12 and up and parents to complete these programs. We also encourage parents to be available to discuss any questions your student may have after viewing the program. Please address any questions about LCPS threat assessment policy and threat reporting to your child’s school administrator.
This 15 minute program is a way to learn about the threat assessment process used in your school and how it can prevent violence. You will be asked to identify your school, but not yourself, when completing the program.
The online educational programs can be accessed through the website: www.schoolthreatassessment.com. The LCPS access code for the Parent Online Program is pmfkqz and for the Student Online Program is sbthn9.
These programs help schools meet the requirement for threat assessment teams to “provide guidance to students, faculty and staff regarding recognition of threatening or aberrant behavior that may represent a threat to the community, or school…” (Code of Virginia § 22.1-79.4)
This project is being conducted by the Youth Violence Project of the Curry School of Education, University of Virginia, in collaboration with the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services and the Virginia Department of Education. It is supported by Grant #NIJ 2014-CK-BX-0004 awarded by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Dr. Dewey Cornell is the project’s principal investigator and Dr. Jennifer Maeng is the project director and can be contacted with questions at email@example.com.