Threat Assessment In Schools: A Guide for School Staff

Threat Assessment In Schools: A Guide for School Staff

Schools across the nation have struggled with rising rates of violence on campus. While the mental health issues that are often the underlying cause of violence at school are a difficult problem that requires long-term solutions, campuses are not completely helpless when it comes to developing an immediate action plan. Teachers, administrators, and communities can design procedures for assessing threats at school and do what is possible to secure campuses and classrooms from intruders.

In this post, the experts at School Safety Solution will provide practical guidance and tools for school staff to create and carry out comprehensive threat assessments. We’ll cover the best practices that campuses should keep in mind for developing and implementing a threat assessment plan, identifying and addressing mental health concerns, and providing support and resources after a threatening incident.

Basics of Threat Assessment in Schools

A threat assessment plan is a plan created by school administrators, teachers, and/or the surrounding community to recognize warning signs and manage risk before violence occurs on campus. A multi-disciplinary approach is favored in the development of a strategic threat assessment plan, and input from all stakeholders (including parents, law enforcement, and mental health professionals) should be valued.

Steps to Develop a Threat Assessment Plan for Your School

    1. Establish a threat assessment team. Who will be developing the threat assessment plan for your school? Developing a plan starts with building a team. Your threat assessment planning team should include teachers, guidance counselors, mental health professionals, school resource officers, coaches, teachers, and administrators, in addition to other relevant individuals who have important experience and/or connections with students. Identify which individuals will work closely with students of concern, understanding that different students might work best with different individuals.
    2. Define behaviors of concern. What items will trigger intervention or support from your threat assessment team? Common behaviors of concern that may be indicative of future violence or which require additional support for a student include a decline in academic performance, unusual absences, drug and/or alcohol use, and mental health symptoms such as depressive or irregular behavior.
    3. Create reporting structures. Students should have an anonymous process whereby they can pass along concerns about their peers to a member of the threat assessment team. According to Campus Safety Magazine, 17 out of 51 averted acts of school violence were discovered when the student told another individual about their plans. 10 out of 51 averted acts were discovered via the student’s posts on social media.
    4. Know when to seek external support. This is particularly important for campuses without designated resident school resource officers. When handling reports or threats involving weapons or violence, schools should have a plan in place to get in touch with law enforcement immediately.
    5. Design procedures for a standard threat assessment. First, address any safety concerns reported, especially those with immediate implications. Next, your campus should have procedures in place to review the student’s disciplinary record, examine the student’s online profile, interview the peers and teachers of the student, and potentially search the student’s belongings and/or locker space.
    6. Design procedures for risk management. Construct a plan for when you will remove a student from campus, and how you will determine if a student should be suspended, expelled, or referred to authorities. Students who are suspended or expelled should continue to be monitored. Whichever method is used to respond to a threat, the mental health of the student of concern should be a priority. Access to guidance counselors and mental health resources should increase, not stall during the student’s isolation from their peers.
    7. Design training for administrators, staff, and students. Students and teachers should be trained to identify signs of mental health crises and potentially violent behavior. Training shouldn’t stop here—schools should have proper intruder training in place so that everyone on campus can feel prepared in the event of an emergency. When considering which training option to select, many institutions find ALICE training to be a great fit for their needs. For more information on the ALICE training method and how to implement it at your institution, head over to School Safety Solution’s complete guide to ALICE training for schools.

      How To Address the Mental Health Component of Threat Assessment

      When developing a comprehensive threat assessment strategy, schools shouldn’t neglect the mental health component of the process. Threat assessments should be trauma-informed, and above all, age-appropriate for the students they are intended to protect. For example, the training designed as part of a threat assessment strategy should be designed to take away minimal time from student learning, but be comprehensive enough that children of all ages have a basic understanding of safety protocols and why they are important. 

      Responding to Threats and Supporting Students and Staff After an Incident

      After an incident involving violence or a credible threat of violence has occurred, it’s important that teachers and administrators respond to the campus community with haste and care. Honest communication with students and parents is essential. Take this time to reassure and explain the details of safety procedures and policies you have in place on school grounds. Review your on-campus security features, including door locks and window coverings. Lastly, make sure mental health resources are available at school to help affected students and teachers manage their emotional responses in the wake of an incident.

      Updating Your School’s Safety Features with School Safety Solution:

      At School Safety Solution, our number one priority is ensuring the highest level of security and safety possible exists on your campus. That’s why we founded School Safety Solution: to keep you and your children safe by providing reliable, high-quality, and life-saving equipment. We understand that a minute can change everything. Our safety solutions are proactive and simple to use in the event of a disaster.

      If you would like to review your school’s safety and security equipment, the tools available to your school’s staff, or any other security considerations, we would love to assist you. You can call our team of safety experts any time at 888.733.0406 or send us an email at for more information.