Implementing Comprehensive School Threat Assessment Guidelines

Professor Dewey Cornell, director of the Youth Violence project at the University of Virginia, spoke with Lightspeed Systems clients and prospects about the Comprehensive School Threat Assessment Guidelines (CSTAG). School threat assessment is a violence prevention strategy that seeks to accurately identify students who pose a legitimate threat to their fellow students or themselves, systematically but quickly evaluate the seriousness of a threat, and intervene appropriately to mitigate or eliminate the threat and address the underlying issues. To learn more, watch our FREE webinar with Dr. Dewey Cornell.

The purpose of student threat assessment is first and foremost to prevent violence, help troubled students, and avoid overreacting to student misbehavior. CSTAG is designed to help schools and school districts establish efficient protocols for heading off violence and getting students the help they need.

What is CSTAG?

CSTAG is a five-step process conducted by trained school-based student threat assessment teams:

Step 1: Evaluate the threat. Team members gather information (the nature of the threat, student history, context, etc.).

Step 2: Attempt resolution of a transient threat. The team follows a decision-tree to efficiently determine whether a threat is transient (minor) or substantive (serious). If transient, the threat is dealt with at the time with the student(s) involved.

Step 3: Respond appropriately to a substantive threat. The team moves to take appropriate protective action if the threat is serious.

Step 4: Conduct a thorough safety evaluation. Student(s) may be briefly placed elsewhere or suspended pending a mental health screening and/or law enforcement investigation. The threat assessment team should develop a safety plan that reduces risk and addresses student needs.

Step 5: Implement and monitor the safety plan. The team implements the safety plan, monitors the student(s), and works to resolve the problem underlying the threat.


CSTAG training is available nationwide, including online, at Are student threat assessment and the CSTAG model effective? Look at the numbers —

In schools and districts where CSTAG has been implemented:

  • More than 99% of student threats are not carried out.
  • Only 1% of students are expelled or arrested.
  • Student counseling resources are used more often.
  • Administration, faculty, parents, and students report a more positive school climate.
  • Statistical studies find no racial disparities in discipline.


How technology can help with student threat assessment

The FBI has determined that most students tip threatening behaviors through their online activity. With real-time social media and email scanning and integration with chat functions including Microsoft Teams, sophisticated school online safety software such as Lightspeed Alert™ from Lightspeed Systems® give IT teams, counselors, and school leaders direct visibility into online indicators of potentially dangerous or harmful student behavior.

Lightspeed Alert can be a critical component in student safety plans and the prevention of self-harm, suicide, and school violence. District administrators and their delegates are notified instantly of threats in alignment with threat assessment protocols, and can confidently and appropriately intervene before an incident occurs. The system securely maintains records of both student history and incident timelines, providing critical documentation for follow-up efforts to address student mental and emotional health and prevent future misbehavior or events.

Protect students from open threats, cyberbullying, self-harm, and school violence. Explore the Comprehensive School Threat Assessment Guidelines, and be aware of the first warning signs with Lightspeed Alert.

Further Reading