What happens during a threat assessment?

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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 conduct 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 determines if the threat is easily and readily resolved, otherwise known as a "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 resolved as "transient" or contains key indicators that expresses a sustained intent to harm someone beyond the immediate incident is treated as a "substantive" threat. Substantive threats always require protective action and interventions to prevent the threat from being carried out.  In response to a "very serious substantive" threat made by a student, the threat assessment team additionally requires 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.

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