Is your school threat assessment team in place and ready to act in order to meet upcoming legal deadlines? Does it understand the interaction between threat assessments and special education evaluations? Is it adequately prepared so that your school will not be the next one in the media spotlight for a threat assessment gone wrong? In this post, we highlight three key issues involving threat assessment and describe upcoming opportunities to learn what you need to know to properly conduct threat assessments going forward.

 The School Safety Drill Act requires school districts in Illinois to have threat assessment teams in place by February 22, 2020 (read more). As schools and districts prepare to comply, they should keep in mind the significant attention the issue of threat assessment is receiving in the news. Teachers unions and other groups recently called for the use of threat assessments, along with expanded mental health services and secure gun storage at home, as an alternative to active shooter drills to increase school safety. And a school district has recently come under fire for involving law enforcement in a threat assessment process where a six-year-old student with Down syndrome pointed a finger gun at a teacher and said: “I shoot you.” School leaders may understandably feel overwhelmed.

What are the key issues to know?

  • Using the right model in the right way is essential for appropriate threat assessments. Earlier this week, Franczek P.C. offered comprehensive, free training on threat assessments from renowned expert Dr. Dewey Cornell and his colleague Jim Feger. The training highlighted the importance of using an evidence-based model for threat assessments, such as the Comprehensive School Threat Assessment Guidelines authored by Dr. Cornell, and of providing high-quality training on that model to ensure fidelity in implementation. Here are some photos from the event
Franczek P.C.'s Dana Fattore-Crumley
Franczek P.C.’s Dana Fattore-Crumley
Dr. Dewey Cornell Speaking to the group
Dr. Dewey Cornell
Jim Feger speaking to the group
Jim Feger
  • Students with IEPs are more likely than general education students to be referred for threat assessments. Franczek special education team members Dana Fattore Crumley and Kendra Yoch are speaking on this important issue on Thursday, February 27, 2020, at the IAASE 21st Annual Winter Conference in Springfield. Their session, “The Crossroads of Special Education Evaluation and Risk Assessment: Which Issue Has the Right of Way?”, will address important questions such as: How do the worlds of threat assessment and special education intersect? How much information should the threat assessment team and IEP team share? What’s the difference between a threat assessment and a psychological or psychiatric evaluation? Those who attend should also stick around to hear Dana on the attorney panel on Friday morning.
  • Confidentiality issues in the threat assessment process are critical and complex. Franczek’s team is offering a complimentary webinar on this important issue, too. The webinar, “Confidentiality and Threat Assessments: Essentials for Threat Assessment Teams and School Leaders,” will be held on March 17, 2020, from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. You can register here. Stay tuned for more details.

We are pleased to continue to partner with clients, friends, and experts in the field to help schools appropriately respond to threats and take proactive steps to prevent school violence. For more information, or if you have thoughts on additional content we can provide with respect to threat assessments or any special education issue, contact the authors of this post or any of the Franczek special education team members.