Student Threat Assessment Best Practices

Want to protect your school with Raptor?

More schools trust the Raptor system than every other system in the U.S. combined
Video Transcript

Welcome everyone, and thank you for joining today’s webinar, hosted by Raptor Technologies. I’m Shannon Gonzales with Raptor, and I will be facilitating today’s presentation and discussion. This webinar of the Raptor School Safety Series is entitled Student Threat Assessment Best Practices. Dr. Cornell will discuss ways to conduct a school threat assessment as well as key steps in implementing threat assessment at your school. Following Dr. Cornell’s presentation, we will hear briefly from Clayton Dorset, original director at Raptor, who will provide us with a quick overview of the Raptor solutions available to support your school safety initiatives.

Then we’ll move into the live Q & A. So, as you have questions, please feel free to enter those into the question box at any time. Also, you will receive a copy of today’s recording, following the webinar, just in case you’d like to refer back to it.

I’m thrilled now to introduce our guest speaker. Dr. Dewey Cornell trained originally as a clinical psychologist trained to work with children and adolescents. An unanticipated opportunity to work as a forensic clinical psychologist inspired him to undertake research on adolescent homicide and violence prevention. In 1986 he joined the faculty of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia, at UVA. He initiated the Virginia Youth Violence Project to develop and disseminate programs for preventing youth violence, and creating safer and more effective schools.

Over the past three plus years he has authored more than 200 publications in psychology and education, initiated state-wide school climate surveys in Virginia, and also developed the Virginia Student Threat Assessment Guidelines. He has trained thousands of school threat assessment teams in the United States, as well as Canada.

Dr. Cornell, thank you so much for joining us today.

Well, thank you very much, Shannon, and thanks to Raptor for giving me this opportunity to talk about threat assessment, and more broadly, about school safety. I’m at my office here at the University of Virginia. It’s a nice, bright, sunny Fall day. I hope your day is equally nice.

As Shannon mentioned, I’ve been studying youth violence for about 30 years, and developed some school threat assessment guidelines actually about 18 years ago after working with the FBI in their study of school shootings. I’d love to share with you my perspective over the next 40 minutes. I’m going to move pretty quickly through the slides, and I’ll make them available to folks. That very first slide has an email contact information for me and a website.

But the main points that I want to cover is first of all, there’s a lot of concern about school violence, a lot of fear and anxiety about it, understandably so. But I want to give you a somewhat different perspective, that school violence is a small part of a much larger problem of gun violence, and in some ways schools are much safer than the public perceives. Because of that fear of school violence, very often we have been driven in education to some overreactions in school discipline and in security measures.

We certainly need school discipline and security measures, but I think that the fear of school violence has, in some ways, skewed our responses. If we can make some corrections in that, we can do that with a school threat assessment approach. I want to talk with you a little bit about the school threat assessment model we developed, some research supporting the youthfulness of this model, and that really it’s a tool to identify students in need of assistance.

Now, certainly school shootings from Sandy Hook to Parkland to Santa Fe are very disturbing, very troubling, and they’re so traumatic that they’ve convinced the public that schools are somehow unsafe places. Now, we need really, I think, two responses to school shootings. Certainly the first response that we need is one of recovery. Schools are terribly traumatic. They’re traumatic for the communities, but for all of us they’re very disturbing. And so, we certainly need to provide support, encouragement, reinforce our sene of security.

But we need another approach as well, and that approach is more analytical. It is more fact oriented, and it’s focused on trying to understand what happened, why it happened, and what can we do to prevent more shootings from happening. So, what I’m going to talk about first is the pervasive misperception that schools are unsafe. Schools, we certainly want to be safe. We’re bombarded with information and stories that indicate that they’re not safe. Lots of different organizations are telling us how many shootings occur in the United States. This map purports that there’s been over 300 shootings in schools since the Sandy Hook shooting.

Let me suggest that this message is only half the story. This map has a red dot where every shooting reportedly occurred in a school. But imagine if we put on this map some yellow dots, some yellow dots for every shooting that occurred outside of a school. Imagine what that make would look like. You can sort of try to do that if you go to the Center for Disease Control website, and you look up some statistics. You’ll see that there are 33,000 deaths due to firearms, due to shootings, every year in the United States.

There’s about 67,000 injuries that end up in a hospital emergency room, for a total of about 100,000 injuries or deaths every year by firearms. That’s 275 shootings every single day in the United States. So, imagine trying to put all those dots on this map over five years. 300 a day is about 500,000 over the five year period. So, in the sense this map would be totally obliterated by those yellow dots.

What this says to me is that schools are far safer than the public perceives. Certainly we want them to be as safe as possible, but if you’re worried about being shot, maybe you should go to a school, because schools are actually much safer than other locations. For every shooting in a school, statistically, there are 1,600 or more shootings outside of schools. Schools are much safer than the public perceives.

One of my doctoral students, as part of her dissertation, gathered some data from the FBI, from the FBI NIBRS Database. This is a national database that covers homicides in 37 states over a six year period. The nice thing about this database is it records where the homicides occur. It’s pretty obvious that the majority of homicides across the United States occur in people’s homes. Domestic violence is a far more common problem, although it doesn’t get near as much media attention as a school shooting.

As you can see, we also have shootings in other locations: the street, parking lot, outdoors. Right in the middle you’ll see restaurant and bars had 533 homicides over this six year period. Way down at the bottom you’ll see that schools had 49. Well, this really caught my eye, because restaurants have about 500 and schools about 50. So, in effect, restaurants are 10 times more likely to have a homicide than our schools. This is striking to me, because, you know, we’re always talking about school violence, but we’re not talking much about restaurant violence. When people say that they’re afraid to send their child to a school, I have to wonder why they’re not afraid to send their child to a restaurant.

Well, of course, they’re not afraid to send their child to a restaurant. They haven’t had that media saturation of shootings in restaurants that we have for schools. Perhaps it’s less poignant, less shocking. Nevertheless, restaurants see a lot more shooting deaths than schools, whether that’s homicides in general or homicides by shootings, the pattern in basically the same. So, when folks talk about arming teachers to prevent a shooting, I have to say maybe we should be talking about arming cooks, servers, because restaurants are far more likely to see a shooter in a homicide than school.

So, the fear of school violence has generated some, I think, harmful and costly over-reactions, and let me say a little bit about them. First of all, zero tolerance. Now, certainly zero tolerance started out as a good idea. We don’t want kids bringing firearms to school. But under the … Over the last two decades, we’ve seen a ramping up over zero tolerance to zero tolerance for all sorts of behaviors, many of which are not dangerous behaviors.

This little boy in a Maryland school, after the Sandy Hook shooting went, “Pow, pow,” with his finger, and was suspended from school. There are many such examples of that, where schools are overreacting under a zero tolerance policy. If zero tolerance were effective, if zero tolerance made schools safer, as many people expected they would, I would be in support of it. But in fact, the evidence shows that zero tolerance is not effective, doesn’t make students improve their behavior, doesn’t make schools safer.

On the contrary, a lot of studies have found that suspension out of school is a practice that does more harm than good. Many studies have found that suspension does not tend to improve student behavior. It does not motivate them to buckle down in their studies. They continue to misbehave, and they’re really at greater risk to drop out of school and end up in juvenile court. When we see the rates of young people going into juvenile court and then on to adult prison, we’re concerned about the school to prison pipeline, and the idea that the high use of school suspensions is actually fueling the school to prison pipeline.

This is something we want to prevent, we want to stop. And of course, it has a disproportionate impact on minority students. We see in the United States, for example, that black students in particular are suspended at about three times the rate as white students. When we did into those statistics a little deeper, we find that it’s not due to firearms or weapons. It’s not due to drug violations. It’s due to disagreements in the classroom. It’s due to disrespectful behavior, disruptive behavior, interactions between students and staff that have gone awry.

The second most important, the second and equally important impact of the fear of school violence, is the impact it’s had on school security. Certainly we need school security measures. Schools that are in high crime areas need more security than other schools. But we need to be practical, realistic, and balanced in our approach to school security. We can’t turn our schools into fortresses.

School security measures can be quite expensive. It takes a lot of money to put bulletproof building entrances in our schools or to install metal detectors and x-ray screening. We have companies that are really ramping up the approach to security. They’re taking military grade security measures, and suggesting that we should put them in our schools. There’s been a suggesting, a marketing of panic rooms. Certainly we don’t have room in our classrooms for panic rooms, and I’d suggest that the school safety data suggests we don’t need them.

We’re also doing things that are potentially quite frightening to children, communicating to them the idea that schools are dangerous places, that they have to practice hiding, in some cases practice dealing with intruders, even charging or attacking intruders, which I think is excessively anxiety provoking. Certainly I think schools should have safety drills, but these drills do not have to involve students pretending to be victims. I think that we’ve had a lot of excessive reactions where they use makeup, for example, to make the scene look realistic. This is incredibly frightening, and sends a really negative message about the safety of our schools.

Of course, these measures are expensive. School budgets are tight. What we’re seeing in schools is that they’re spending money on security measures, but they’re finding they don’t have enough resources for prevention measures, for student support programs. It doesn’t be an either-or situation that a school has to choose between security and prevention, between student support and guarding the school. We really need to have a more balanced approach.

We need to think about preventing shootings rather than simply preparing for them. Now, prevention means to keep something from happening. To keep something from happening means it happens … it could be long before the actual event. Crisis response is not prevention. Schools need crisis response plans. They’ve got to practice them and be good at them, but you only implement a crisis response plan when your prevention plan has failed.

While in Virginia we’ve had a terrible shooting at Virginia Tech, that’s sealed in the memory of every educator here, most of the public. We talk about school violence, we naturally think about the gunman. We think about the person with the gun. And of course, when you think about the gun, you think about, “How can I lock the door? How can I get away? How can I get security or law enforcement to protect me?” So, we need to think about prevention. It’s something that starts long before the gunman is at the door.

We need to look behind the gun. Who was this young man? Who are these young people before they pick up the gun? In the case of Virginia Tech, many people were very concerned about him, very concerned about his mental state. Unfortunately, that information was not brought together. One of the primary recommendations of the Virginia Tech analysis and study was that Virginia Tech and other schools needed to have a school threat assessment team that could have identified concerns and brought information together.

But we can think about prevention even going back further than that. Who was this young man in high school? He was in a special ed program. He did pretty well academically, but socially and emotionally he was in considerable distress and was quite withdrawn and troubled. We can go back even further to middle school. This young man, Mister Cho, in the eighth grade in 1999, saw the Columbine shooting on television, and he wrote an essay about it. He wrote an essay in school expressing admiration for the Columbine shooting. So, folks grew quite concerned about him, even in middle school, about his ideas and his thinking, and his emotional adjustments.

So, we need to think about prevention as something that starts very early. There are opportunities for prevention years before the shooting starts and leading up to the day that it happens. This approach is a multi-tier approach, and it’s something we’re very familiar with in education. We use this for academics, we use it for social adjustment. We use it in a lot of ways in education. We think about programs at tier one that are school-wide, programs at tier two for at-risk students, and we think about intensive interventions for a small percentage of students who are in need of on-going services.

But we need a shift in mindset from just a security to a balance between security and prevention. We can prevent violence by helping all students to be successful in school. A prevention approach doesn’t require that we have to predict who’s going to be violent. We simply have to identify kids who are in distress, who are in need of services, and help them to be successful. We can prevent violence by identifying students long before they carry out a violent act.

The Secret Service, the FBI, and the US Department of Education reached this conclusion almost 20 years ago. In separate reports they pointed out how important it was for schools to identify troubled, angry, or threatening students, and to intervene with them before their problems escalate into violence.

What is threat assessment? Well, threat assessment started out as a practice in law enforcement, something that the Secret Service used to protect public figures. But threat assessment can be adapted for schools, and
we think of school threat assessment as a problem solving approach, a problem solving approach to violence prevention that involves both assessment and intervention with students who have threatened violence in some way. This idea that a threat is really a signal that a young person is having a problem, a problem that frustrates them, that has led them to make some type of threatening statement or engage in some type of threatening behavior. The most effective way to prevent violence in those cases is to help that young person solve the problem that is stimulating their disruptive and threatening behavior.

So, school threat assessment really begins when somebody is concerned. Family members, friends, classmates, teachers see someone who is in distress, someone who may be angry, someone who has threatened some type of violent act. When threats are reported, when troubled students are reported, the response has to be to evaluate. We recommend a multi-disciplinary team that I’ll say a little bit more about in a minute. A multi-disciplinary school threat assessment team that looks at the seriousness of the threat. A threat may be a call for help, a threat may be a sign of impending violence. We want to do an assessment.

We’re going to initiate assistance to address the underlying problem, conflict, the need. In the most serious cases we’ll take protective action. We’ll involve law enforcement as part of the school threat assessment team. But we’ll find that in the majority of cases we can resolve the problem without taking the most severe kinds of actions.

We’re going to take action based on the seriousness of the threat, not a zero tolerance approach where every misbehavior receives the same strict response. We’re going to look at the threat and say, “What protective action, if any, is needed? What kind of problem stimulated the threat? What can we do to resolve that problem?” Because with school threat assessment we want to avoid two kinds of errors. The first error is an error of overreaction.

We’ve seen this across the country, where schools have been very concerned when the student engages in some type of behavior that suggests violence or aggression in some way. This is my probably best, most extreme case. This second grader who ate his Pop-Tart into the shape of a gun, and was suspended for showing the Pop-Tart off and saying, “Oh, it looks like a gun.” This was a young man with a 504 Plan, with an ADHD diagnosis. Although I think really any young boy, any second grade boy, might be tempted to make some kind of impulsive remark in this situation. But of course, this young boy is not dangerous. What he did was not dangerous. It was not violent. No one was going to be hurt by this Pop-Tart. I like to point out that the only way that a Pop-Tart is dangerous is really if you eat it.

Of course, the reason that we tend to overreact to student behavior is we’re afraid of under-reacting, and understandably so, we want to prevent a shooting or an act of violence. We’ve seen many acts of violence that have been prevented in schools, many of them with a school threat assessment approach. We have to recognize that threats lie on a continuum. Many threats are very low level. They’re not serious. They may be figures of speech. “I could shoot you for that,” or “I could strangle him.” They may be jokes. They might be expressions of anger or frustration that don’t really signal a on-going intend to commit a violent act.

Some students, and a lot of students these days, are making threats that are nothing more than a way of seeking attention, causing a disruption. There is heavy copycat effect after a school shooting. We see just all over the country, a surge of young people, and adults as well as young people, I should point out, calling in bomb threats, communicating threats digitally, sending out photos or statements that are really intending to cause a disruption. The threats that we are most concerned about are those right at the top, the substantive threats, that are actually warnings of impending violence, where the person actually has an attempt to carry out a violent act. So, with threat assessment, we’re trying to sort through all these possible levels of threat, and identify the most serious ones.

We want to determine why the student made a threat, so that we can prevent the threat from being carried out. So, after the FBI study of school shootings in 1999 I had an opportunity to present some cases of school shootings that I had been involved in to the FBI, along with other cases we studied. The FBI, Secret Service, both recommended that schools should develop a threat assessment approach. They gave us some good principals, some good ideas, but we hadn’t really put that into practice. And so, in 2001 I met with a group of educators here in Charlottesville, school administrators, school counselors, psychologists, school resource officers, and we spent the Summer evaluating threat cases that occur at a school, and trying to develop a set of practical procedures and guidelines that could be used.

We tried them out for a year with 188 threat cases in 35 schools, and we fined them into a set of guidelines that were developed in 2001, published in 2006. This is the original manual that we have been using since for a decade now. This manual guides school based teams to systematically gather information about a student’s threat, follow a decision tree to determine how serious the threat is. We distinguished transient and substantive threats. I’ll say a little bit about that in a minute. Then they develop an intervention plan to try to resolve whatever kind of problem underlies the threat. It may range from a problem such a bullying to a developing or emerging mental illness. It may be a peer conflict, a problem with teachers. There may be difficulties at home. There may be a number of different stresses and problems that culminate in a student’s threatening behavior. Depending on the seriousness of the threat, we have criteria for taking protective action.

Let me just say we used this manual successfully for more than a decade, and the timing is just right for today’s webinar, because we have just completed a revision of the manual. The new manual is Comprehensive School Threat Assessment Guidelines. It’s at the printer this week. We are going to be shipping these manuals out to folks starting in November. It has all the procedures in the original manual. The original manual is still good to go, but we’ve made a lot of improvements. We’ve gotten a lot of inputs from schools using the manual. We’ve also got a dozen published studies, and learned a lot from them, and we’ve also added the section on adult threats.

The original manual looked at threats made by students. The vast majority of threats that schools deal with are made by students. But we know that from time to time there are threats that might be made by a parent, might be made by a staff member, might be made by someone in the community. Certainly threat assessment is widely used to prevent workplace violence, to protect public figures, and we’ve adapted some of the principles and practices used for adult threat assessment, and made them available to educators in this manual.

Let me just say that there is a decision tree process that we systematically gathered information to evaluate the threat. This is a five step process, although it’s a triage process. That is we may be able to resolve the threat in step two if it’s not a serious threat, if it’s a transient threat. If it’s a substantive threat, we’ll move on to step three. Depending on how serious it is, we’ll take different types of action. Let me just say that we’ve got new forms to elaborate how these steps work. This is kind of a cheat sheet that we have developed and worked out with the schools. It’s something that they find useful, the five steps of a threat assessment.

This form is in the manual, but it’s also freely available. We are making it available as a Word document to anyone to who does training with us, or anyone in general who’s interested in it. We’ve posted it on our website. Anybody who contacts me, I’d be happy to send you the school threat assessment decision tree. This decision tree is followed by a serious of interview forms and checklists that you can use to go through each of these five steps.

So, the most important distinction that we make in our school threat assessment is between what we call transient threats and substantive threats. Now, transient threats, which are the most common kind of threats, are not serious. They’re temporary. They’re fleeting. So, we call them transient. Some of them are simply rhetorical remarks. Maybe they’re expressions of anger or frustration, but they’re easily resolved. Typically the student retracts the threat, apologizes, and explains that there was not a serious intent or plan to carry out a violent act.

On the other hand, substantive threats are threats that have substance. These are threats that express an attempt to injure someone beyond that moment, that situation when they may have said something impulsively. Whenever there is some risk that a student will carry out a threat, we’re going to take protective action. In the manual, in our training we talk about different types of protective action. So, just warning intended victims, contacting the police for investigation, and in the most serious cases doing a mental health assessment of the student to develop a more formal safety plan.

We train a team in every school. We think every school should have a threat assessment team. The team in the school is going to know the school, know the students, be available to intervene, be available to follow-up and monitor the situation. So, although teams outside of the school can be useful as consultants, we think that each school should have a small team led by an administrator, principal, or assistant principal, including the school resource officer, if there’s a law enforcement officer or liaison office available, and then your mental health staff, your school counselor, psychologist, social workers.

Teachers can be on school threat assessment teams, certainly that’s possible. Some school systems have decided that teachers have too much to do in instruction, and that this is a student support activity. So, they’re not necessarily on the team. But even in those cases they should be consulted and provide information about students that they’ve had contact with. In Virginia, actually, teachers are on our school threat assessment teams. So, this varies from school to school. I think what’s most important, what most authorities agree, is that a school threat assessment team should have administration, law enforcement, and mental health members. Those three approaches need to be working together on the same page.

Now, we’ve done a lot of research over the past 17 years in threat assessment. We’ve got 12 published studies. I like to joke with audiences that I’m going to go through each one of them, but you know I’ve only got 40 minutes. So, that’s not going to happen. But I have copies of each of these that I would be happy to share with you. You can get them through our website or by emailing me. Let me give you sort of a quick summary of what we found across these 12 studies.

What we found overall is that 99% of threats that receive a threat assessment are not carried out. This involves hundreds of threats, actually thousands of threats across hundreds of different schools that we’ve studied in different studies. 99% of threats don’t happen, don’t result in a violent act. Only about 1% of the students who receive a threat assessment end up being expelled, about 1% get arrested. In fact, the schools using threat assessment see their suspension rates go down, and they also see that racial disparities are reduced, or in the study that I’m going to close with in a minute eliminated.

Well, counseling we see is used more often in schools using a threat assessment. When we look at school climate survey data of students and from teachers, we see that schools, students, and teachers report a more positive climate when a school is using a threat assessment approach.

In 2013 we sent our studies to the National Registry of Evidence Based Programs and Practices. They did a three year review, had us reanalyze the data, jumped through a lot of hoops, but at the end of the process they approved us as an evidence based program. So, when we talk about an evidence based program what we mean is any kind of program, service, or intervention in education or mental health for which there are controlled studies, studies with control groups, that show positive results. So, I’m a strong advocate of evidence based approaches in all aspects of education, in all aspects of mental health. So, it was very important to use to establish that the Virginia Student Threat Assessment Guidelines, the model developed at the University of Virginia, would have evidence to support it, and is an evidence based approach.

Let me just say in 2013, also in response to the Sandy Hook shooting, Virginia mandated that all schools should have a school threat assessment team. Now, they did not mandate that they use the model we developed here at the University of Virginia. They weren’t that specific. They said that schools need to have the basics, the rudimentary essentials of threat assessment, and they can then decide what kind of model, how they want to further specify their school threat assessment approach.

Well, we’ve been evaluating what’s happening in Virginia. We got a federal grant here at the university to look at the state-wide implementation of threat assessment. Many schools in Virginia already had a school threat assessment program in place, but now we have every public school in Virginia reporting that they have a school threat assessment team. They vary widely in how active they are, but we are gathering data from them showing that the schools that are conducting threat assessments are getting very good results.

Now, here is a study that was just published in School Psychology Review in July. In this study we looked at a sample of 1,800 threat assessment cases reported by 785 public schools. As you can see, we had threats from K through 12. Students typically make all kinds of threats. We had unspecified threats. “I’m going to get you. I’m going to hurt you.” We had hundreds of threats to kill, to use a weapon, to hit or beat somebody up. When we looked at these threats, we saw that mostly students threatened other student. Two-thirds of the threats are aimed at other students, 15% teachers, and so forth.

We found that 97.7% of these threats were never attempted. A small percentage, 2.6% were attempted, but they were averted. Less than one percent were actually carried out, and all these involved fights, they involved physical altercations where no one was seriously injured.

In terms of disciplinary response and outcome, schools did not use a cookie cutter approach, as we would expect with threat assessment. The approach is based on the seriousness of the threat, the seriousness of the situation. So, many students simply received a reprimand. Some were suspended out of school or suspended in school. If you look down at the bottom you will see, state-wide in Virginia, one percent of students were arrested, and one percent were expelled. That is one percent of those who made a threat that was brought to the attention of the threat assessment team.

We also looked at whether the students were able to return to school. I know very often when a student makes a threat, administratively there’s a lot of concern, and often there’s an attempt to remove the student from school. But what we found is that using a school threat assessment approach that’s not necessary. Using a school threat assessment approach, 84% of the students who received a threat assessment were able to return to school with no change in placement. Now, about eight percent did move to an alternative school. A sizeable percentage of students who make threats have special education status, and some of them, based on the assessment of the student’s behavior and the situation, needed more intensive services than what the current school was able to provide.

Some were places on home bound, typically near the end of the year. Some were transferred to another regular school. And then a small percentage had some other outcome, which might involve, in a small number of cases, incarceration, hospitalization, some other type of outcome.

Very important to us is whether there were racial differences in the outcomes for students. So, we looked at those 1,800 students who received a threat assessment. We looked at the white students, the black students, and the Hispanic students. We compared them in outcomes. I’m really pleased, very proud to say that in Virginia schools doing threat assessments there were no racial, ethnic disparities in any of these outcomes. White, black, and Hispanic students who received a threat assessment were equally likely to be suspended. Almost all of them were able to return to school. Only a small percentage had a change in placement. There were no differences, again, in expulsion, arrest, or incarceration.

In Virginia schools, like schools across the country, black students are suspended at a much higher rate than white students. But in those students, in those schools where the students received a threat assessment, there were no racial disparities. So, we’re very pleased. We’re very excited that this is a very promising result. We’ve seen this in several other studies as well. This is the largest scale study with 755 schools, but we’ve seen this in other studies that we’ve done, that schools using a threat assessment approach see reductions in suspension and reductions in racial disparities.

So, let me just sort of conclude with these main points that I mentioned a little bit earlier. I hope I’ve been able to convince you that school violence should be seen as part of a much larger problem of gun violence, that schools are safer than the public perceives. We want them to be absolutely safe. We want to identify troubled students and help them, not just because they might commit violence in school, but because they need help. We need to back off a bit on some of the overreactions that we’ve had to school violence, in terms of zero tolerance discipline and the excessive security measures.

Finally, I hope I’m giving you a little bit of introduction and insight to the notion of school threat assessment as a useful tool to identify people who need assistance. Some best practice tips, we want to have school based, multidisciplinary teams. We want a triage approach, so that most cases can be quickly resolved as transient threats, that we can focus on the most serious cases. We want to take a problem solving approach of helping distressed students. School threat assessment involves both intervention and follow-up.

I’ve covered a lot of ground. There’s a lot more to be said. Certainly we have a lot of information on our website through the Virginia Youth Violence Project, Curry School of Education. If you Google any of those terms you’ll get to our website, and you can get a lot more information. I really appreciate your listening and thinking about the use of threat assessment. I think it can be a very effective and useful tool for us, in helping troubled students, and in preventing violence.

I know we’ve got some other things we want to talk about today. So, I’m going to turn it over to Clayton Dorsett.

Yes. Welcome, everybody. My name is Clayton Dorsett. Thank you, Doctor Cornell. That was some very valuable information there. So, we definitely appreciate your time.

So, once again, my name is Clayton Dorsett. I’m the Regional Director here at Raptor. Just as a friendly reminder, we will be having a Q & A session at the end of this. So, if you do have any questions as we’re going through this, feel free to put them in the chat, and we will get those addressed here at the end of our presentation.

So, with that said, just to get started, I just want to talk to you guys a little bit about Raptor, introduce who we are, and then we’ll go ahead and dive into the product. So, here at Raptor, we were founded back in 2002. As you can see here on the screen, we have a presence across the country, as we have been entrusted by over 23,000 K12 schools across the country, using our products here.

Some of the … We have three core solutions here at Raptor. The first one is the visitor management system. What that really does is that just replaces your pen and paper that a lot of school districts are using today with an electronic form. We also have our volunteer management, which we offer the full life cycle of volunteer to help streamline that process with putting an application on the website, instant background checks, and then we have the emergency management product, which we’ll be discussing today.

So, within the emergency management product there are three crucial aspects to it. First is the drill management. We have active incident management, and the parent-student reunification process. So, within drill management, what this is going to allow your district to do is set pre-determined requirements for all your campus sites. We give you guys the flexibility to distinguish between elementary, middle schools, high schools.

What’s going to happen is, is you at the district level will set up those requirement, and once you set those up for your campuses and publish those, a push notification gets sent out to all campus sites so they can begin planning. All of that information, the planning, the completing, it all gets set up to a nice, clean dashboard here at the district level. So, you guys can easily see who’s been, what requirements have been planned, and which ones have been completed. At that point you can have any reports sent off to the campus sites.

The next piece here that we’re going to go over is our active incident management. So, this is going to be the accountability piece of the emergency management product. So, as you can see here, what we’re looking at on the screen, here at Eisenhower Elementary, if there was ever a lockdown of some sort, we have three different plans for the off-site reunification. We have Meridian Elementary, Saint Thomas, and Knoles.

So, let’s take a look at what would happen when an incident is initiated. So, in this case we have an SRO. What they’re going to do is they’re going to trigger a lockdown. This example here is for a SRO, but if you guys do not have SROs, it can be a principal, it can be an office manager, assistant principal, whoever you guys feel necessary at the campus site.

But what’s going to happen is, is the SRO is going to open up the Raptor application on their phone, and they’re going to start the incident. They’re going to put us in emergency, what type. Here we’re going to do a lockdown. It’s at Eisenhower Elementary. We’re going to go ahead and initiate that. So, once we initiate that, an automated message is sent out to the entire building staff and the district emergency team. So, now let’s take a look.

So, inside the classroom here you’re going to see if the teacher’s going to receive that automated text message. This is going to go complement any procedure you may do today. So, some have alarms, your PA system. This is just another route. And so, what’s going to typically happen at this point is the staff member is going to turn off the lights, lock the door, and hide in the corner. This is where we automatically integrate with your SIS and the class roster will get pulled into the teacher’s phone here. Of course, first they’re going to account for themself and their location.

Here you’ll see the full roster in place, and they’ll begin updating the students’ statuses. So, once they have updated those statuses of the students, this is happening simultaneously throughout the entire location. All this information is getting fed up to the district emergency team. So, now you guys have visibility into the campus that you may not have today. So, in this example here we can see that we have a couple that have been marked injured. So, what you guys are able to do now, is you can drill into the injured, and we can see here the four students that have been marked injured.

Let’s say we want to take a look at Jen Anthony. We can see the status in realtime, who marked her injured, where she’s located. We also are able to pull any guardian information as well. So, you can make a quick phone call, text, email to that guardian.

So, now let’s talk about the reunification offsites. So, in this case here, we’re going to go ahead and say we’re going from Meridian Elementary, Plan A. So, here at Meridian Elementary we’re going to have the student holding area, the guardian greeters, and the reunifier desk. So, what’s going to happen here, as students start arriving to the student holding area, at this point, this is where you would use your mass notification system in order to notify the guardians of the instructions for their reunification.

Once that is sent out parents will begin to show up. And so, what was going to happen here is the guardian greeter is going to begin the reunification process. So, here we can see that Mrs. Atkins has showed up for Theodore. So, we’re going to begin with him. Here it’s going to pull the approved guardians. We’re going to say it’s Mrs. Atkins. You can verify. Now the reunification has been initiated. And so, this is going to continue to happen as parents trickle in.

So, as you can see here at the reunifier desk, we’re going to have our runner. They’re going to be working out of the runner tab that you see on the screen within the mobile app. What they’re going to hit is retrieve [inaudible 00:48:23] student. So, what that is going to do is that’s going to pull in Theodore, and then he’s going to know that he needed to go get Theodore from the holding area. At this point the reunifier is working out of the reunifier tab there, and is going to see that Theodore is en route.

So, they’re going to call Mrs. Atkins up to the front. The runner is going to show up with the student, and they’re going to reunify. At this point they can go ahead and sign off and hit reunify. Then we’re going to give them a full reunification summary of that student. Once this happens, an automated text message is sent out to all guardians to let them know that Theodore has been picked up. Then they’re going to go off, happily ever after.

With that I will go ahead and pass it back to Shannon.

Thank you, Clayton. We’ll now move into the Q & A section. We have several questions here from the audience. If we don’t get to your question, we will certainly follow up with you afterwards as well. So, don’t worry about that.

The first question goes to Dr. Cornell. Dr. Cornell, do you recommend a school based team or a single team for threat assessment, based out of the just district?

So, that’s a good question. It does come up a lot. We do recommend that each school have its own team. We think that there’s a lot of advantages to having a school based team. First of all, the team members are right there available to respond. They know the students, they know the culture of the school, and they’ll be available to follow up and monitor the situation.

Now, we recognize that there might be some cases that are perhaps challenging, and that they might want to consult with someone. So, some larger school systems will have a team that’s there to assist or consult with the school based teams, or they may bring in consultants from the community. But the vast majority of cases can be handled by a school based team.

Great. Thank you, Dr. Cornell. The next question is for Clayton. Clayton, with the Raptor emergency management system, are you able to see who is in the building in the event of an emergency?

Yeah. So, if you guys are using our visitor management system, that’s going to completely streamline the process for you guys. So, that visitor list, the contractors, or whoever else may be on your campus outside of students, will feed directly into the reunification app as well.

Great. Thank you, Clayton. Dr. Cornell, we have a question from audience member, Robert. He says that they would like help developing a school threat assessment team for each of their schools, and he said, “How do we get assistance?” Do you have any recommendations for where they would go for those type of resources?

Well, there are lots of folks who are providing school threat assessment training. My colleagues and I do provide school threat assessment workshops, one day workshops, in the University of Virginia model. Certainly he could contact me and I could give him more information about our workshops.

Sandy Hook Promise Foundation is a foundation, as it implies, started after the Sandy Hook shooting. One of their core mission is to help schools get school safety training. They have a number of programs that they offer that they pay for. So, the schools don’t have any costs. One of them is called SAI, Safety Assessment and Intervention. That is the school threat assessment model that we developed here at the university, which they have kind of adopted and want to disseminate.

But there are other school threat assessment models, and I would be happy to share folks with information about them as well.

Great. Thank you, Dr. Cornell. Next question is for Clayton. Clayton, what is the cost of the Raptor emergency management system?

Yeah. That’s a great question. So, there is some variables at play, if you are a visitor management customer as well. But for the average customer, it’s about $1,000 per campus.

Great. Thank you, Clayton. Dr. Cornell, I have another question here. What if our school personnel are not qualified to do a violent risk assessment? Should we contract with somebody within the community?

Well, that’s also a very common question. People have a notion that a violence risk assessment is a very complex and difficult process, but we find that fewer than 10% of the cases need a mental health assessment. What they need in terms of a mental health assessment is really what many psychologists, counselors, and social workers are trained to do. That is we’re going to identify what mental health needs does the student have, what is the reason behind their making a threat.

We don’t ask our school staff to do something they’re not trained to do. We don’t ask them to make a prediction about violence. Predictions are very hazardous. You might ask someone in the community to make such predictions, but you’ll find that they’re not qualified to do that either. Certainly it’s fine to contract with folks in the field, but you will find that the school threat assessment approach that we use does not require any extremely high level of expertise in violence prediction. We’re focused on prevention, and we’re focused on using the resources you have available in your school.

That’s a really short answer. There’s more to be said about that. But in a nutshell, your school can do more than perhaps you think.

Thank you, Dr. Cornell. The last question here is for Clayton. Are you able to upload building maps into the Raptor emergency management system?

Absolutely. Absolutely.

Great. Wonderful.

So, thank you again, Dr. Cornell, for joining us today. Contact information for both Raptor and Dr. Cornell will be on the screen shortly. We do have several upcoming webinars in the Raptor School Safety Series, including Seven Lessons Learned From The Columbine Tragedy with retired principal, Frank DeAngelis. Mr. DeAngelis will walk us step-by-step through the events that occurred on April 20th, 1999 at Columbine High School. He will also share the top lessons learned in the response and recovery.

To see this and other upcoming webinars and to register, please visit raptor.com/register. Also, you will receive an email survey shortly. If you could give us your feedback, we would greatly appreciate it, so that we can take your input into account, and plan for other webinar topics that you might be interested in.

This does conclude our broadcast today. Thank you so much for joining us, and we hope to see you on the next webinar.

Scroll to Top