What is a threat assessment?
A threat assessment is a behavioral approach to violence prevention that focuses on threats and other forms of student conflict before they escalate into violent behavior. The threat assessment team uses a problem-solving approach to evaluate the risk of violence posed by someone and to intervene & resolve the issues that underlie the threatening behavior. Florida Department of Education requires training and use of the Comprehensive School Threat Assessment Guidelines: Interventions and Support to Prevent Violence by Dewey Cornell, Ph.D.
The goals of the threat assessment process are to keep schools safe and to help students overcome the underlying sources of their anger, hopelessness, or despair. An effective threat assessment provides school-based threat assessment teams with useful information about a student's risks and personal resources. Additional potential student risks that can be identified and prevented are academic failure, suicide, alcohol and drug use, physical abuse, and criminal activity.
What qualifies as a threat?
- Threats may be spoken, written, or gestured
- Threats may be direct or indirect, and need not be communicated to the intended victim or victims ("I'm going to get him")
- Weapon possession is presumed to be a threat unless circumstances clearly indicate otherwise ("I forgot my pocketknife was in my backpack")
What guides our district threat assessment process?
Florida Department of Education - Office of Safe Schools
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission
Implementation of Legislative Recommendations of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission/SB7030
Behavioral Threat Assessment state guidance
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the steps of the comprehensive behavioral threat assessment process?
Identification – initial responding/screening of a safety concern.
- School staff, students, families may become aware of issues related to campus or person’s safety and are obligated to notify administration, SRO/SSG, or any member of the school-based threat assessment team.
Assessment – gathering of detailed information & determination of the level of threat/safety risk.
- School-based threat assessment team will review records, interview the person posing a threat, witnesses/stakeholders, and/or target of the threat. From this information, the team will use the state threat assessment process to determine the level of risk.
- Consistent with district procedures of investigating discipline and bullying, family is not permitted to be part of the interviewing process. However, the family will be included in the process as soon as possible and has an integral part in providing & planning support.
- Threats that are not made to truly intend harm but rather expression of anger, joke, figure of speech, or attention-seeking and can easily resolved through initial steps would be classified as “transient.”
- Threats made with an intention to engage in behavior that will cause harm or disruption are classified as “substantive.” Our response as a school system, will depend upon the level of risk and other related factors.
- Elementary students make more threats compared to students in middle and high schools. However, they tend to make “transients” threats that do not revolve around true intention of harm. Typically, the threat is made due to issues with emotional and behavioral regulation, limited understanding of consequences (jokes), and/or limited social/communication skills. (Dewey, 2018).
Intervention – planning support needed to reduce risk of harm for the campus, staff, and students.
- Transient level of risk typically results in follow-up parent communication of involved students and student code-of-conduct based consequences and support plans.
- Substantive level of risk typically results in parent communication of involved students, student code-of-conduct based consequences, school-based safety/support plan, potential law information involvement, and connection with community-based supports.
Monitoring – monitoring student’s needs, the safety of student and campus, and revising support as needed.
- Behavioral plans, supports, plans, and level of risk will continued to be monitored by the school-based threat assessment, as needed.
- Schools are able to refer specific case to the District Threat Assessment Team if additional support or oversight is needed.
How Do I Report A Threat?
Students, parents, Pasco County School employees, and members of the community have a responsibility to report suspicious activities and potential threats to schools. Any suspicious activity or threat should be promptly reported to one of the following individuals, agencies or reporting tools:
A threat report can be made to:
- Any school staff member
- School Administrator
- School Resource Officer or local law enforcement agencies
- PCS Mental Health Team Members (727) 774-2131
- Everyone can report a threat via the following link:
- FortifyFL Link - FortifyFL is a suspicious activity reporting tool that allows you to instantly relay information to appropriate law enforcement agencies and school officials 24/7.
*** If Imminent danger, call 911 ***
Everyone has a responsibility to report a threat. This is not snitching!!
Snitching: informing on someone for personal gain.
Seeking Help: attempting to stop someone from being hurt and get support to those in need
Even if it’s a joke … there are consequences!
Every Pasco County school as a Threat Assessment team that is required to meet monthly or as needed. Each month, the threat assessment team reviews assessment & implementation fidelity, safety plans, and pattern/trends of the data.
Pasco County Schools also has a District Threat Assessment team which also meets monthly or as needed. The district threat assessment team reviews district-wide implementation of the state adopted guidelines, new legislation, and high profile cases. The team includes members of the mental health team, student services, administration, and law enforcement.
All district and school-based threat assessment team members are trained in the use of the Comprehensive School Threat Assessment Guidelines as required by FLDOE.
Online Training Program
Online educational programs on school safety are available to help students and parents understand the threat assessment process for preventing violence.
We encourage all students, ages 12 and up, and parents to complete these programs. We also encourage parents to be available to discuss any questions your child may have after viewing the program. Please address any questions about CCPS threat assessment policy and threat reporting to your child’s school administrator.
This 15-minute program is a way to learn about the threat assessment process used in your school and how it can prevent violence. You will be asked to identify your school, but not yourself when completing the online program. By the end of the program, parents/students will know/understand:
- School safety is complex but severe violence in schools is rare and can be prevented
- Threat assessment is a problem-solving approach for investigating threatening statements or behavior with the purpose of determining how serious a threat is, preventing violence, and resolving the situation
- Threat assessment teams include individuals with expertise in administration, counseling, instruction and law enforcement
- How teams investigate threats of violence
- Some threats are a violation of state or federal law
- How to report a threat to school officials
- Discipline within a threat assessment approach is based on threat seriousness
- There is research-based evidence to support threat assessment as a safe and effective practice that improved student behavior, reduces bullying and reduces suspensions
- How to talk to your child about the difference between snitching and seeking help
- The online educational programs can be accessed through the website: School Threat Assessment Online Program
The CCPS access code is:
Parent code: pzb22u
Student code: st8t78
Issues of Confidentiality
Student education records are official and confidential documents protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). FERPA, also known as the Buckley Amendment, defines education records as all records that schools or education agencies maintain about students. FERPA gives parents the right to review and confirm the accuracy of education records. These rights transfer to the student when the student turns eighteen years old or attends a postsecondary institution. FERPA relates to records/documents and not observations or direct communications.
There are exceptions of protections of FERPA including issues of health or safety emergency. School administrators, teachers and other staff may share information including educational records with other school officials that have a need to know the information; this includes the members of the threat assessment team.
Whenever safety concerns exist, schools may share information with others outside the school such as parents, law enforcement officials, and mental health professionals.
Threats to our schools are a growing problem that cannot be tolerated. We are partnering with local law enforcement agencies to crack down on people who make threats. Any threat whether verbal, written, emailed or posted online, is illegal and has serious consequences:
Even fake threats have real consequences. Parents, please talk to your children about this serious matter and potential consequences of such behavior:
- Up to $10,000 in fines
- Up to 15 years in prison
- Felony record
Florida State Statutes: False Reporting
- FLA. STAT. § 790.163 (2018) False report concerning planting a bomb, an explosive, or a weapon of mass destruction, or concerning the use of firearms in a violent manner; penalty.
- FLA. STAT. § 790.164 (2018) False reports concerning planting a bomb, explosive, or weapon of mass destruction in, or committing arson against, state-owned property, or concerning the use of firearms in a violent manner; penalty; reward.