Threat Assessment

  • What is Threat Assessment?

    Threat assessment is a behavioral approach to violence prevention that focuses on targeted threats before they escalate into violent behavior.  Threat assessment teams use a problem solving approach to evaluate the risk of violence posed by someone and intervene and resolve the issues that underlie the threatening behavior.

  • What approach to threat assessment does LCPS use?

    LCPS conducts threat assessments in accordance with the Comprehensive School Threat Assessment Guidelines, an evidence-based model developed by Dr. Dewey Cornell and colleagues at the University of Virginia. These guidelines were initially published as Guidelines for Responding to Student Threats of Violence and have been widely adopted by schools in Virginia and other states.  LCPS Policy 8290 outlines the requirements for conducting a threat assessment. 

  • Is threat assessment required?

    Yes.  While LCPS has been implementing threat assessment since 2004, Virginia legislation (§ 22.1-79.4) was passed in 2013 requiring that “Each local school board shall adopt policies for the establishment of threat assessment teams, including the assessment of and intervention with individuals 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.” 

  • Who to Contact ?

    Monday-Friday 8:00 a.m. -- 5:00 p.m.

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  • Who is on the Threat Assessment Team?

    The school threat assessment team includes a School Administrator; School Counselor, School Psychologist, and School Social Worker; and School Security Officer and School Resource Officer, where assigned, each with different roles for supporting the threat assessment process.  

  • What does the Threat Assessment Supervisor do?

    The Threat Assessment Supervisor is responsible for the management and coordination of LCPS's school threat assessment teams and the implementation of procedures for assessing and responding to individuals whose behavior may pose a threat to the safety of school staff or students.  Melanie Stephenson is the current Threat Assessment Supervisor at Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS).

  • What happens during a threat assessment?

    The threat assessment model follows three basic steps: reporting and identifying threats, assessing and classifying threats, and responding and managing threats.  

    In the first step, students, staff, or other individuals who identify a threat are to report this behavior to a school administrator, such as the principal or assistant principal. 

    When a threat is reported, the school administrator should immediately initiate a threat assessment that includes reviewing the threatening behavior or communication; reviewing educational and other records; and interviewing the individual who made the threat, the recipients of the threat, and other witnesses who have knowledge of the threat. The purpose of this interview is to assess the threat in context, so the meaning of the threat and whether the individual intends to carry out the threat is understood.

    The threat assessment team works to determine if the threat is easily and readily resolved, otherwise known as a "transient" threat. Examples of transient threats are jokes, figures of speech, temporary feelings of anger at the time of the threat, or rhetorical remarks that do represent genuine or continued intent to harm someone. 

    Any threat that cannot be clearly resolved as "transient" or indicates a continuing intent to harm someone beyond the immediate incident is treated as a "substantive" threat. Substantive threats always require protective action and intervention to prevent the threat from being carried out.  When the school threat assessment team determines that a student has made a "very serious substantive" threat, the team additionally requires a temporary detention order evaluation with Loudoun County Emergency Services followed by a mental health evaluation. The team will consider recommendations from the mental health evaluation to reduce the risk of violence and to address the problem or conflict underlying the threat. For both transient and substantive threats, there is an emphasis on helping individuals and resolving the underlying issues.

Threat Assessment Resources for...

Virginia Center for School and Campus Safety

  • The Virginia Center for School & Campus Safety (VCSCS) provides support to all Virginia K-12 schools through training, with resources and technical assistance, and by guiding best practices.

    The VCSCS has released an instructional video for school staff, parents, and community members: K12 Threat Assessment in Virginia Schools 

Last Modified on January 11, 2023