Managing Threats Part 2: Preventing Violence and Creating Safe Schools

Part 2: Setting Up Protocols


Another school shooting. More children killed and wounded.

This time it happened in Marysville, Washington, but it could happen anywhere, in any state, in any town. There have been 87 shootings in America’s schools in the past 18 months. It is a sad but true fact that violence is increasing in our schools. Teachers and school staff are the people we rely on to identify and manage threatening situations before they become violent. Educators must not become desensitized to threats of violence. Protocols need to be put into place to follow up on all threats because, as stated in Part 1 of this series, all threats should be taken seriously.

phoneHow do we respond to threats before violence happens? School personnel must make timely and comprehensive responses to student threats in order to prevent school violence. The following excerpt is from the program Managing Threats by Geoff Colvin. This is Part 2 of a four-part series.

Protocols for Managing Threats

We recommend that the following protocols be put in place in order for school staff and administrators to make timely and effective responses to student threats. These protocols utilize emergency procedures, safe reporting strategies, and building resource teams.

Emergency Procedures

Typically schools are required to have emergency procedures in place to manage crises such as someone in possession of a weapon, someone under the influence of drugs or alcohol, serious accidents, suspicious strangers in the building, and breakdowns in the physical plant. Schools often have a generic emergency plan with the following components:

  • Trained crisis team
  • Working relationship with law enforcement
  • Spokesperson for the media
  • Clear communication of procedures to students, staff, parents, and appropriate community members
  • Closedown and lockdown procedures
  • On-call follow-up support staff available
  • Specific documentation procedures

We recommend that the established school emergency procedures be used in the case of threats when imminent danger is determined. Use the list above as a checklist to remind your staff what the emergency plan is comprised of for your school.

Safe Reporting Strategies

Many threats are reported by students who hear about them or read them online. It’s important to maximize this source of information and to protect the students who may be reporting. Here are some guidelines to establish:

  • rules classroom0000Let students know that it is responsible behavior to report threats. Students need to be taught that it’s okay to break the “code of silence” in order to ensure safety and prevent violence.
  • Designate a school person for students to report threats such as a school counselor, principal, homeroom teacher, or any staff member with whom they are comfortable.
  • The receiving staff person must assure the student that his or her name will be kept out of the investigation.
  • Positively acknowledge the student taking responsibility to report a threat.
  • Follow up later in a private way to check that the student is doing okay and whether or not there have been any repercussions.
Building Resource Team

meetingA building resource team is responsible for conducting necessary assessment and for developing corresponding interventions and long-term care plans following assessment. This team is comprised of building staff and includes professionals from community agencies as needed. Team members should receive appropriate training prior to implementing the threat protocol and behavior support plans.

Coming up: Defining the Roles of On-Line Staff and Administrators

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