Threat Assessment Process In-Depth

PSD Threat Assessment Process Helps Determine Level of Concern

Daily vigilance of student behavior, knowledge of early warning signs, and a comprehensive threat assessment process combine to help Poudre School District administrators, counselors, psychologists, teachers and School Resource Officers (SROs) determine the seriousness of threats made by students.

Two threats made by students surfaced this week in PSD junior high schools, and PSD’s threat assessment process was followed to determine both threats were of low risk, or not credible.  In spite of the fact these threats were determined to be of low risk, Boltz and Webber Junior High principals are sending letters home with all students today (Thursday), given the level of media coverage.

According to Norm Bastian, PSD Security Manager, PSD schools follow a multi-step process when a student in a school makes a threat.

As part of its safe schools and crisis prevention program, PSD’s security department holds training and shares in-depth information and tools with schools so they are prepared to deal with threats, when they occur.

“If an individual makes a targeted threat directed to either a person or a building, a threat assessment investigation takes place,” says Bastian, who coordinates district-wide training, oversees schools’ safe school plans, and supervises the district’s SROs, police officers who work in PSD schools.  “We take all threats very seriously.”

Following is the summary of the steps schools take when a threat from a student occurs:

1.      Convene the school’s Level I site-based threat assessment team, consisting of the principal, school counselor, teacher or other person who knows the student, SRO, and other staff, as needed.

2.      The team reviews the student’s history and specifics about the threat.  This helps identify, assess, and manage issues related to the threat.

3.     The team completes a Risk Management Worksheet that covers 14 student categories: aggressive behavior, discipline record, academic performance, exposure to violence, history of previous threats, victim of abuse, exhibits cruelty to animals, victim or perceived victim of discrimination or harassment, gang/antisocial group member, family support, empathy/sympathy/remorse shown, interpersonal/relationship skills, preoccupation with weapons/death/violent themes, and drug/alcohol usage.  The risk assessment also includes the details, access to weapons, and viability or planning related to the threat.

4.      The team determines the level of risk (low, medium or high) based on the risk assessment.

5.     The team develops a management, intervention, and support plan for the student.

Bastian emphasizes that parents of students involved are contacted immediately following any threatening incident.  A decision to share information with all parents about the threat is determined based on the level of threat. 

“Threats that are determined to be high risk are communicated to all parents,” says Bastian.  “If parents hear about threatening incidents from their students, we encourage parents to contact their school principal for the most timely, accurate information.” 

Mark Gronstal, a specialist in threat assessment for PSD’s student assistance services, works with schools and provides training and consultation with staff. 

For additional information, contact Bastian at 490-3523, or Gronstal at 566-2326.

The following informational items from PSD’s Crisis Prevention, Response, and Management manual are available upon request:

  •  Mitigation and Prevention Summary
  •  School Violence Early Warning Signs
  •  Principles for Identifying Early Warning Signs
  •  Imminent Warning Signs
  •  Threat Assessment Checklist
  •  Risk Assessment Worksheet