In this webinar, you will learn:
Dr. Dewey Cornell trained originally as a clinical psychologist to work with children and adolescents. Over the past 30+ years he has authored more than 200 publications in psychology and education, initiated statewide school climate surveys in Virginia, and developed the Virginia Student Threat Assessment Guidelines. He has trained thousands of school-based threat assessment teams in the U.S. and Canada.
1:26 (Marissa Naab from Lightspeed Systems)
All right, it looks like folks have had a chance to join, so let’s go ahead and get started. And good morning to everyone who is on, and thank you for joining us, I am Marissa Naab. I’m on the webinar team here at Lightspeed Systems, and I have the pleasure of moderating today’s session on Student Threat Assessment as a School Safety Strategy.
Before we get started, just wanted to touch base on a couple of quick housekeeping items. First and foremost, this webinar will be recorded. We will be sending you the link to the recording once the webinar wraps up, so you can view at a later date, if you need to or share with your colleagues.
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Without further ado, it is my distinct pleasure to introduce Dr. Dewey Cornell. He is our main presenter today. He is the Professor of Education at the University of Virginia.
Dewey would you like to tell us a little bit more about yourself?
Yeah, yeah. Thank you very much. Hello everyone. I’m really happy to have the chance to speak with you today, happy Spring.
I’m going to be talking about school threat assessment, and in particular, the CSTAG model.
And the CSTAG model, which we developed at the University of Virginia, and my e-mail is on, is on this page and there’ll be a copy of a PDF of this available for you.
If you’re interested in getting more information about any of these slides, so as Marissa mentioned, I’m a professor of education at the University of Virginia, I’ve been here since 1986.
But let me say a little bit about how I came down this pathway to study youth violence.
So, at any rate, when I finished my doctoral studies in clinical psychology, I worked as a forensic clinical psychologist in a state hospital, where I evaluated and treated persons who had committed violent crimes, including a large number of young people who had committed murder.
And this was a very striking experience.
It didn’t take long for me to see that none of these young people were born violent or destined to be violent.
In fact, with the sort of benefit of 2020 hindsight, it was often too painfully obvious that violence was not inevitable, but that there was always a combination of social and familial and psychological factors that, that led these young people, to commit a violent act.
And, and it was easy to see in hindsight where they might have been helped, and how violence could have been prevented.
And that really propelled me to think about a change in my career to focus on violence prevention.
And in 1986, I had the opportunity to join the faculty at the University of Virginia, where I could train educators and school and clinical psychologist and school counselors.
And I also had the opportunity to work with the FBI and their studies of school shootings.
I evaluated several young people who had committed school shootings and became deeply interested in the idea that at school shootings could be prevent.
And now, the FBI introduced me to the concept of threat assessment. I wasn’t familiar with the term, but as I learned more about it, I thought it might be worth a try.
That is adapting threat assessment for schools.
And in 2001, I worked with a group of local educators here in my community, to develop some practical guidelines. And we’ve tested them numerous times, and spent many years developing these guidelines, and now, they’re being used nationwide.
So, I’m going to cover four topics quickly today. First, I’m going to talk about this concept, the school threat assessment, what we mean by it.
Then I’m going to talk about the comprehensive school threat assessment guidelines, or CSTAG model. I’m going to talk a little bit about training and CSTAG and then what you can expect to see if you implement the CSTAG.
So, the basic idea of threat assessment is to help people in distress. Before violence occurs, there’s really three phases to any threat assessment.
First, there’s an identification phase where people have to be willing and able to come forward and seek help when they are concerned about someone, someone who may be in distress, or who has made some kind of threat or engaged in some kind of threatening behavior.
And second, we have to have a team in place whose they’re willing and able to listen, to gather data, to evaluate the seriousness of the threat, and then third, to intervene based on that evaluation for whatever problem or conflict seems to be at play.
Now, this is not a new idea. About 20 years ago, both the FBI and the secret service conducted studies of school shootings.
And when they looked at the pathway that young people followed, culminating in their attack, they realized that a threat assessment approach could have been very helpful and likely prevented the shooting.
But threat assessment was something that had been developed to protect public figures, such as the president.
And I soon realized that we needed to adapt that process and that orientation in order to apply it to schools, because, as you know, schools deal with a different population in a very different setting.
Students are growing and developing individuals.
They’re much more likely than adults to make threats or make threatening statements. They’re much more likely to get into fist fights and shoving matches.
And so, we have to be very careful not to overreact to students’ misbehavior.
All too often when a student is made a threat, school authorities have overreacted with expulsion, suspension, arrest sometimes, which, of course, can have a really devastating impact on that young person’s education.
And third, of course, schools have an overarching mission to educate all of our students, regardless of their motivation, their capability, their interest. We want them all to be successful.
It’s not like we’re a business that can just fire a disgruntled employee, we want all of our students to be successful.
So, the purpose of threat assessment in a school is that we’re actually going to go beyond preventing violence, to really helping troubled students and avoiding overreactions to student misbehavior.
There’s really two kinds of errors we want to avoid when we conduct a threat assessment.
One is we don’t want to overreact.
This is kind of the classic example this young boy chewed his pop tart into the shape of a pistol, and then kinda waved it around and saying, hey, it looks like a gun.
He got into some serious trouble for that.
And was suspended from school.
And from a threat assessment perspective, I would have to say he does not pose a serious risk of violence.
The only thing dangerous about a pop tart is if you eat it.
Well, let me just say that the second error that we want to avoid is under reaction and of course, that’s very concerning. And often we overreact because we’re afraid of underreacting.
We know that there are many school shootings that have been prevented that have been thwarted because people identified a threat or a weapon or a plan and were able to intervene. And that’s where threat assessment comes in.
The task is formidable because there are lots of threats that occur in schools. I mean a lot of things that are threats are really figures of speech or jokes low-level. threat, Sometimes threats are expressions of anger may be expressed in hyperbole.
Sometimes people make threats to, to seek attention, to brag, to cause a disruption, or intimidate someone. All of these of course, are serious concerns that we might want to deal with as disciplinary matters.
But the threats that we are most concerned about are the threats that are truly warnings of impending violence, where the person actually is planning and preparing to commit a violent act and those are the ones that threat assessment is keen to identify and then intervene and stop.
All right, so that’s what we mean by school threat assessment. Now, let’s talk about our particular model of threat assessment, the CSTAG model.
This model really grew out of my work with the FBI in their study of school shootings and the workgroup of school professionals who helped us come up with a kind of a practical and efficient model.
We developed this model in 2001.
We field tested it in 35 schools. We refined it and improved it.
It uses a decision tree to distinguish threats that are not serious what we call transient threats from threats that are more serious, which we call substantive threats.
And then it guides us to take protective action for substantive threats, but always to be taking a problem-solving approach and try to resolve the problem underlying the student’s behavior.
So here is our decision tree. This is the core of our model when we started to develop our threat assessment model. One of the members of our workgroup was a middle school principal.
Middle school principal is a good friend of mine and said, Dewey, whatever we do, it’s got to be simple.
We’ve got too many threats in middle school, he said.
We can’t have a long, complicated process for every single case.
And I said, Bernard, you’re exactly right. We need a triage process. We gather some information. We decide how serious it is.
And we only invest more time and extensive effort.
If the threat is, in fact, more serious, more dangerous, and so we can’t treat all threat cases the same. So how do we do that?
In the simpler cases, in the simplest case, you’re going to investigate a report, a threat.
And you might find out there was no threat at all. Maybe it was a rumor or misunderstanding. Maybe somebody used profanity and that upset people, but there really wasn’t a threat present.
Now, in those cases, we certainly might want to respond with discipline or counseling, but it doesn’t require a threat assessment so we can stop at step one.
Now, we also have cases where there is a threatening statement that’s made, but the person doesn’t really intend to carry out the threat.
This might be a figure of speech, an expression of anger with no actual intent.
These are not serious cases. They are transient threats.
And we have a response to a transient threat. There may be a conflict or problem we want to resolve.
But from a threat assessment perspective, there’s not a risk of the threat being carried out, and we talk about the criteria for making those distinctions in our training.
Now, the third step are threats that are substantive serious threats.
There’s some serious intent now if we’re not sure whether a threat is transient or substantive, where we will air on the side of safety and treat the threat a substantive.
A serious substantive threat typically means particularly in middle grades, one child is threatening to fight another child or hit another child.
These are the most common ones that we see.
And we’re going to take some action to prevent the fight from happening. You know, many cases are resolved at this step with some counseling, some conflict resolution.
If it involved basically a fight.
Well, if the threats more serious than a fight, if there’s a threat to shoot someone or stab someone or kill someone, that doesn’t seem to be just hyperbole. It’s not a transient thread. It’s substantive.
Then we will do a more comprehensive assessment at step four.
And at step four. This is what we call very serious substantive threats.
We’ll use our full decision tree, will conduct a more comprehensive safety evaluation, and we’ll develop a safety plan.
Now, fewer than 10% of the cases in our studies go this far.
Step five is the implementation of our plan and the follow up work that we do to provide services to the student.
And you may have a small number of cases where you’re going to work with a student on an ongoing basis.
So, I’ve summarized it very briefly. There’s a lot more to be said about our model and how it works.
We have a comprehensive manual that describes different cases and different criteria, and how to work your way through the threat assessment process. And we do this through a training program, and we’ve been equally at work at developing a training program. And we’ve done training all over the United States. I know many of you are from states that are in red here, where we have done threat assessment training.
If you are from Florida, you are, by law, have been directed to use our threat assessment model. Florida has adopted our model statewide.
We’re working in all these other states. If you’re from Kentucky, we’ve done a lot of training in Kentucky. We’ve got more planned.
I see this map is a little bit out of date. The state of Maine isn’t in red, but actually we’re training schools in Maine. This year we’re doing a statewide program in May.
We’re doing training right now. And in California, we just finished a lot of workshops in Orange County, California.
We just prepared a trainer for Missouri and for Kansas, for them to start doing threat assessment training. So we’ve got a lot going on across the country to train folks to use our model. I’d be happy to share information from you. Connect you up with schools that are using our model.
We evaluate our model. We believe that everything that we do should be subject to some research.
We’ve done a series of studies on our workshop, and we’ve used the results to make improvements over the years.
Our latest study looked at 100 workshops conducted by nine different trainers, and over 4600 participants.
And what we found, first of all, folks all like our workshops, they find them engaging, they understand the material, they find it to be useful, and when they leave, they’re motivated to implement threat assessment, and we see that consistently and more than 95% of the participants in our workshops.
But let’s go a little further than that.
We also want to know what they learned in the workshop, and so we give them a pretest.
And at the pretest, folks typically answer about 40% of the questions correctly.
But after training that more than doubled, over 84% are answered correctly.
Now, we looked at this by occupation, because, as you know, threat assessment is often a multi-disciplinary team process, and we want to have a program that works for all disciplines.
And what we found is that our mental health professionals, our administrators, our teachers, our law enforcement officers, all show substantial gains. And at the end of the training, they’re all within a few points of one another in terms of their knowledge and performance on our tests. So, we’re very pleased that we have a training program that works across disciplines.
Now, of course, it goes without saying the last year has been challenging, the pandemic has put a pretty big damper on in–person training and workshops and so forth.
And so, we’ve had to adapt and last summer we began developing an online training program.
So I’ll say a little bit about that online training program and I’m going to say that because even when the pandemic is over, cross your fingers there sooner rather than later.
But even so, I think the online program has a lot of advantages that are worth using.
Our online program is really, has two levels.
Instead of doing a single full day workshop face-to-face, which can be a long day, covers a lot of material.
Instead, we’ve broken up the training into two levels, and part one is the basics.
It’s just covered online in a series of modules, their slides, with narrators.
There are case studies, there are questions along the way to keep you engaged, and it’s asynchronous, you do it at your own time, at your own pace, and this makes it much more flexible and efficient for schools to get all the basic material covered on their own.
And then when we do bring people together, at level two, it’s focused on practice.
So, you learn the basics on your own, and then you come together in a live workshop. And this workshop could be online, or it can be in person when health conditions permit.
But you work with your team, and it consists of a series of case exercises, starting with a simple exercise, an easy case, and working your way up toward more challenging and difficult cases.
And this has proven to be a very effective training. Folks are very pleased with this. We’ve got about 30 of these workshops over the past few months. We’ve gotten very positive reviews.
Participants tell us this is the best online training they’ve ever had.
And so, we’re really gratified by that and probably will want to continue offering this kind of training even when the when the pandemic subsides. Now let me just say that we make sure that you learn the material. There is a pre-exam and a post exam.
And at the end of the training, everyone who has completed the exam gets a certificate of completion, and the school administration gets a report.
That can really confirm and document, that their teams have been trained, that they’ve achieved a certain standard of knowledge, and they are ready to implement the training program.
So, what about implementation?
You’ve trained your teams, but how are they going to do what’s going to happen after training?
Well, I can tell you how they’re going to do after training because we have studied that; we have 20 years of research looking at what happens in schools when they implement the CSTAG model. These studies have been peer reviewed.
They’re published in top journals and education at school psychology and criminology.
So, let me, let me give you an elevator style summary, which is, across multiple studies. 99% of our threats, are not carried out, when students are referred for a threat assessment, 99% of the time, no threat is carried out.
The threats that have been carried out have been fights, and, and I have to say, there might have been some fights that occurred, that the school didn’t know about, you know, maybe as fight took place after school.
But, so we can’t be 100% sure about the fights, but we are rather confident that the schools did not have a shooting, didn’t have a stabbing, didn’t have a killing, didn’t have a bomb go off.
And we’ve had hundreds and hundreds of these very serious threats that have taken place, did not occur.
And so, we think that this is a safe and effective process. Now, there’s more to be said about this.
We could get into the details of our controlled studies, I’ll share with you a one study in just a minute, but let me also say, we also find not only are 99% of the threats not carried out.
Very few of these kids are expelled or arrested, about 1% across studies. We also see that counseling services are provided to the students at a much higher rate, and we have a randomized controlled trial. To show this, we also know from quasi experimental studies that the schools using our model report a more positive school climate.
The students report less bullying going on.
The teachers report that they feel safer in the schools using our model.
And last and I’ll return to this in a minute.
We have looked at racial disparities that white, Black, Hispanic, other students of color treated comparably to the white students, and what we found is they are treated comparably.
We have not seen the kinds of disparities that we generally see in school discipline practices. So, I’ll come back to that in a minute as well.
Let me just say, let me give you, as an example, a study from 339 schools in Virginia, that were using our model.
That reported data to us on 884 threat cases, and I’m going to describe a little bit about what happens, so that you can see what you might expect using the CSTAG model in your schools.
And what we found, across 856 threats that we had classified classification information for, is that three fourths of them, 77% of them are transient threats that are quickly and easily resolved, not serious threats. This is going to save you a lot of time and energy, and also, allow you to ramp down the staff, time, and concern about these cases.
About a quarter of the threats are substantive and most of these are fights. So, your school counselors, your folks who are working to mediate disputes. These are cases that they’re pretty familiar with. A small percentage go beyond the level of a fight.
Less than 10%. And those will require the more comprehensive assessment that I mentioned that goes through all five steps.
If we break these down by grade level, you might be wondering, do I need threat assessment in elementary school?
Well, in fact, we have threats at all grade levels.
Now, the blue bar tells you that these, most of the threats, were transient, not serious.
The red shows you the smaller percentage of threats that were considered serious substantive.
And you can see there’s a lot more red in the middle grades, or middle school, and up to the ninth grade, to first grade of our high schools in Virginia.
Those have slightly more substantive threats, but generally, you will see that there are threats at all grade levels, and this is really an opportunity to identify a child who is frustrated or in distress, having some type of conflict, and it’s really an opportunity for early intervention with these students.
As I mentioned before, very few threats are carried out.
In fact, in this sample of 800 cases, 97.5% were not even attempted.
We had 2% of the threats that were attempted, but they were stopped, school staff knew what was going on and they were able to avert a threat.
And we had about a half of a percent that were carried out, and as I said before, these were all fights. We have not had any serious injuries.
Hope that continues. As, I know, statistically, eventually, it won’t, but we’ve had thousands of threats across our studies, and no one has been seriously injured who’s received a threat assessment, or they’ve not injured anyone else.
Let me say, in terms of disciplinary outcomes, this is not a one size fits all.
This is not zero tolerance, the disciplinary consequence, the punishment, is proportional to the violation to what they do.
Many of the kids receive a reprimand.
Some of them receive a suspension out of school, but if you look down here in red, you’ll see 1% arrested, half a percent expelled, less than one half of percent placed in juvenile detention in this particular sample. So, it’s only the most serious cases.
And when we look at those cases and there are aggravating factors in those cases, to justify this kind of more serious disciplinary response, let me just mention one more data slide. Sorry to bombard you with all of these statistics, one more, and then I’ll be, I’ll be done with that.
And that is disciplinary outcomes by race and ethnicity.
We compared white students, 453 white students, who received a threat assessment with 225 black students, and 73 Hispanic students who received a threat assessment, and we look to see what percentage of these students were suspended out of school.
And as you can see, though, the percentages range between 34 and 41%, which was not statistically different values are just random differences in percentage rates that weren’t the huge rates that we typically see in schools.
Now, typically, in Virginia, schools, like schools nationwide, we are seeing black students suspended at twice the rate, ah, triple the rate, in some cases, as the white students.
We don’t see that in the students receiving a threat assessment.
If we look at whether they had a change in placement, maybe they were transferred to another school.
Again, the vast majority of our students don’t have a change in placement.
And those that do, it’s equally likely to happen or comparably likely to happen for white, Black and Hispanic students in terms of being arrested, expelled, or placed in juvenile detention.
These are the rare, really, very serious cases, and there have not been racial or ethnic disparities in our research for those students as well.
We’re continuing to study this topic.
We have implemented threat assessment in Florida schools. We have a federal grant to study implementation of threat assessment in Florida.
And this is one of our key research questions. We want to look at the disciplinary outcomes.
And we want to be able to hopefully confirm that threat assessment does not generate racial and ethnic disparities.
All right, I’m just about done here.
Let me just say, in conclusion, that I think that school threat assessment has a bright future.
I think it’s a very promising practice. We’ve developed and worked on it and tested it over two decades.
And we have good evidence that this approach will help troubled students before their problems escalate into violence.
We can see it at schools using this model make a lower use of school suspension school exclusion.
They’re less likely to overreact to student misbehavior at the same time keeping our schools safe. So, I think this is a very viable alternative to zero tolerance.
That does have some of the negative impact that we’ve seen from zero tolerance.
State, by State, we’re seeing large-scale implementation of threat assessment.
I saw a national survey that estimated that over half of the secondary schools in the United States are using some form of threat assessment.
And, and more than a third of the elementary schools are using some form of threat assessment.
What we need, of course, is more research development of standards.
I’m part of the National Center for School Safety, which is designed to help schools develop and implement a variety of school safety programs, and I lead the threat assessment component of that, of that National Center. If there’s more information that you’re interested in on training, in particular, go to the School TA website.
Anyway, thank you very much for your time. You might have some questions. I’m happy to answer your questions now or were by e-mail later on.
And I know that Mr. Chambers is going to want to spend a few minutes talking with you as well, so let me let me now turn this over to Mr. Chambers.
Thank you, Dr. Cornell.
Let me share my screen here.
All right, thank you, everyone. I’m Rob Chambers. I’m the VP of Customer Success here at Lightspeed Systems.
And I’m going to talk to you a little bit today about our Alert product, and it was interesting to hear about the CSTAG model. And I think there’s a lot of things in our Alert product that align very well for schools in that regard. And so, I appreciate the time to hear about that this morning, as well, starting off we can have a quote here from one of our customers.
And I think what’s really key as we go through these features and look at this and I was listening in to the, you know, Dr. Cornell’s part of the presentation.
We’ve been helping schools for a long time in working through incidents.
But, historically, those were post incident.
They were reactive.
Find out what happened, helped the school, determine what led up to an incident. And, you know, we really felt like we could be doing better. And that’s what has led to the development of this, this product.
So, quick kind of slide here, you know, we’ve got schools all over the US.
Very similar coverage to what, what we saw there. So many of you are probably overlapping. Your schools might be using the CSTAG model, as well as our software.
There’s a suite of products that make up the Lightspeed Systems solutions, probably, most commonly, the filter, and mobile device management side of things.
But, you know, there’s also the Classroom Management, the Analytics. And today, the Alert feature is the one I’m going to talk about.
And what this is really about is, what I was talking about earlier, is taking that from a reactive model into one that can be more proactive for schools.
And I think this aligns with some of the things we were hearing earlier in the presentation, you know, when we look at the kind of traditional models for tracking this student activity on the Internet.
You ended up with an overwhelming amount of information and, you know, I think some of the things we heard about, you know, trying to avoid overreaction of an incident with a student, or underreacting, and I think, when there’s just so much overwhelming information, it’s easy to lend yourself to going one of those two directions.
And so, what we’ve done with Alert is tried to, we apply our AI to, to the incidents that‘s going on. We look at, it’s a combination. That’s not just what does a student browse on the Internet, but what did they say? What did they search?
But we pull all of that together into these incidents and give it to you in a context that’s easy to understand, easy to take action on.
And especially when that action is maybe somebody outside of IT, whereas, you know, it more traditionally, it might be somebody in IT having to compile those reports.
So, when we look at this, you know, you can see this is information coming from all different kinds of sources, whether it is something that a student typed as a Google search, or mentioned in a chat session, such as Microsoft Teams, that is on the screen.
And we’re able to integrate in and pull all of that information, and give you a comprehensive view, that student activity, that student incident, and again, in a way that is very easy to understand.
So, if you look at the kind of sample report on this slide, you can see, a student is, is researching school violent events, school shooting events, researching how to buy a gun, bringing that all together, and that flags together as an incident.
That is presented in a way that, again, has all of that context together.
So, it’s not just one search query taken out of context, or one website that the student may have gone to, it brings it all together in that incident, so you can see that very clearly and decide, where does that fit on hat threat cycle, right? Is this something that warrants that that higher investigation?
All of these can be tracked over time. And you can see if the student has had multiple incidents.
And, again, really leading to that, ability to take that intervention in, and help these students early and, and stop the reactive mode that I think so much of us were faced with previously in kind of the traditional way of looking at this.
Coming to, you know, a customer story here. This is one of our customers in Louisiana. They’re using Alert. And you can see here, you know, it’s preventing suicides, preventing bullying.
Really, again, it’s a big part of what actually makes me excited to come to work every day is knowing that, you know, these tools are helping students and helping schools see where the intervention is needed and making a difference in those students. And, you know, it’s not just me saying it here. We have a school quote here and a school study that actually shows, no, this, this is important, this does help us find those threats. Take that appropriate action, and reduce the incidents within schools.
So, with that, oh, you know what? I’m supposed to remind you about questions. So, I’m going to do that now. I apologize, I didn’t do that beginning of mine.
But if you could go ahead and put any questions you have into the GoToWebinar control panel, we’ll go ahead and take those questions, whether they are for Dr. Cornell, or for me.
We can answer those, however, they come in.
Awesome. Thank you, Rob. And thank you, Dr. Cornell. And you both had some incredible insights. We have had several questions come in, so I am going to go ahead and start reading those off.
Let’s see, Rob, around what apps or sites do you see the greatest amount of cyber bullying on?
Yeah, that’s an excellent question. I think, you know, traditionally, we think of things like, you know, chat or maybe a shared doc, or off Google Doc or Office 365.
But, I was working with a school last year, and helping them kind of go through an incident where the kids were on a How to Program website. And they were using the Notes section in that in, in order to bully each other.
So, really, you know, it’s unfortunate, but it’s going to happen wherever kids have the opportunity to communicate with one another, those kids that unfortunately want to bully another student there. It’s not going to be restricted to any one mechanism. And so, I think that’s really, I think one of the powerful pieces of our solution is that we are looking across that traffic no matter where they might be. So, again, your most common sources might be that share docs, that shared environment, we see a lot of that. They’ll type something in a Google Doc and try to delete it. But this will capture that, but it can be anywhere. And again, this chat section or this documentation section about how to program, is one of the cases that comes to mind for me.
Awesome, thank you. We have one for Dr. Cornell.
Make sure she is unmuted. There we go.
Dr. Cornell, what level of a threat would you rate a student who makes multiple repeated references to violence or self-harm in a joking or irreverent manner?
That’s a common problem and concern. I think you do the first assessment. You may determine that the student is, you know, maybe seeking attention using this behavior inappropriately.
And that would be a transient threat.
Now, as the student continues to make threats, rather than do the same threat assessment over and over again, under our guidelines, you would develop a behavior response plan for the student’s behavior.
It would depend apart on some other factors, whether the student is receiving special education services.
We see this most often in students who may have a serious emotional disability.
And I might be using this, and then we would need to do a functional behavior analysis and see what we can do to replace this behavior with something more adaptive. But we do need to be concerned when threats are repeated over and over again.
I have seen cases where the threat progressed into something that was carried out.
And so, the threat assessment team would be monitoring that student over time and, and might need to modify the plan, if it looks like things were not working or was getting worse.
I’ve got another one for you, Dr. Cornell. How often do students who display intentions of harming themselves shift to intentions of harming others?
That’s a very good question.
There have been these high profile cases where a person with both suicidal and homicidal and that’s kind of created a stereotype that I think is misleading.
There are many youngsters unfortunately in our schools who are, who have thoughts of self-harm and thoughts of suicide and we’ve studied the incidence of that relative to threats to harm others.
The overlap is very small.
About 5% of the students who come to the attention for making a threat to either to harm self or harm others, about 5% are, are threatening both themselves and others.
Most students, who threatened to harm themselves, are not interested in harming someone else, and they’re not gonna gravitate, or evolve toward wanting to harm other people.
We have different procedures that we want to follow for suicide assessment, then, for a threat assessment, about 5% of cases do have an overlap, and do need both suicide assessment, and intervention, and threat assessment and intervention.
That’s really interesting, and that is a great segway to this question, for Rob. How can alerts for violence or cyberbullying be managed delegated within the district compared to alerts for self harm?
Yeah, thank you. And I think it does align very well to that within the software. You have different, you know, categories where violence versus self-harm.
And you can designate admins that receive alerts.
And so, you can have, you know, maybe, my counselors are going to receive the self-harm alerts. And maybe it’s a school safety when, when you start looking at violence. Or, you know, if they have implemented the CSTAG program, I’m sure they’ve got different teams in place that would receive those kinds of things. But you do have the ability to differentiate those alerts and make sure they’re going to the right people at the right time.
So, when that incident happens, they’re gonna get that real-time alert, and that ability to take action, and not have to worry about, oh, did this go to, you know, do I need to get IT to fill up this report or that kind of thing, they get distributed out through the administrative roles.
Thank you, Rob.
This is a question for Dr. Cornell. Do you recommend having an assessment team at the school level, or should the team be created at the district level?
I’m solidly in favor of a school level team.
A district level team could be helpful in more complicated cases, or cases that require a lot more coordination of services.
But the vast majority of threats can be handled at the school level, and I think they are best handled at the school level, because the school knows the kids are going to be able to follow the kids, stay with the kids, and implement whatever services are necessary.
So, I’m a big proponent of school level teams, district level teams, as a supplement, and maybe a few of the more challenging cases.
Yeah. And this, that’s a really great segway to another question for you. If our school personnel are not qualified to do a violent risk assessment, should we contract with somebody within the community?
Well, first of all, threat assessment and violence risk assessment. They sound similar. They’re not the same.
And our school psychologist in school counselors who’ve got experience interviewing young people, asking them about problems like bullying and anger, who maybe might screen students for mental health services.
If they can carry out those functions, they can carry out our model.
We do not ask our schools teams to do a violence risk assessment which has, I think, connotations that are a little bit overblown. We’re operating within our scope of practice.
Remember, we’re not trying to rate or rank a student is dangerous.
We’re trying to understand why did they make a threat?
What mental health services might they need, and what can we do to help them resolve the problem of conflict that generated the threat?
And those are things I think people could do.
We have to think a little bit about the kinds of services that we need to prevent violence, and it’s, it’s not as sophisticated, or it’s not rocket science that we’re asking them to do.
And, and with our training, with our manual, we’ve got a whole chapter on the mental health assessment that they want to do, and mental health screening that they want to do.
I think, I find that our school psychologists, school counselors, school social workers, they look at what they actually are being asked to do.
And they say, yeah, that’s kind of what I do already.
Here’s a question that I think, follows along with what you talked about earlier in terms of overreacting and Underreacting.
And how do you decide in certain cases and what disciplines appropriate? So this question is, what would you consider expendable offenses in relation to threat assessment? And at what point, do we make the decision to call the authorities?
Well, I, if by authorities, you mean law enforcement, we would like to have law enforcement, at least as a liaison, on this team, so that they can understand the distinctions we’re making between serious and not serious cases.
We recommend law enforcement involvement for very serious substantive threats, which is less than 10%.
And they may well want to do an investigation alongside of the threat assessment process.
For those cases, expulsions arise.
First of all, bringing a firearm to school is going to trigger a referral to the school board for consideration for a possible expulsion.
The other cases where expulsion comes up usually involve a student who has repeatedly engaged in serious disciplinary infractions and has proven basically unresponsive to the services that have been provided.
Of course, I would consider whether special education is needed.
I would consider whether a change in school placement is needed before I would reach that point.
This question’s for Rob, how does the Lightspeed software differentiate from a true threat, and a false alarm?
Yeah, so, obviously, this is not meant to replace the human teams and the processes that Dr. Cornell has been talking about, but what it really does is help sift through the noise, I guess. You know, I worked for the school when we implemented this.
You know, they were using kind of the traditional method of looking at suspicious search queries or those kinds of things. And, you know, that was resulting in, I think it was, you know, somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 incidents per day, per school, just an overwhelming amount of things to get through, right. And most of them were just kids typing, kids saying, you know, just kids being kids, to be quite honest.
Because we’re combining, you know, kind of all of the activity into that view and looking at those different things to generate these reports, you know, when they turned on Alert, they went from two, you know, that that high number, 12 per day, lots of very much more manageable amount to get through this, because this was a middle school area. So, as we saw in some of the Alerts, we tend to see more incidents in that middle school area.
And so, but getting down to 12 gave them that, that number that was manageable and a number to focus on and go, OK, here are the ones that we need to review. Here are the ones that are less serious, and, and can be handled in a different way. And so, Alert is pulling at all that information.
It’s not just overwhelming you, with everything that students searches for, everything a student types, it’s bringing in, what, what other websites with a visiting, what did they search for? Now some searches can be serious enough to drive an incident right away, but others will combine that, that information and give you that context.
Rob: We have one final question.
Is there a way to see the full history of alerts that came from a particular student?
Absolutely. That is maintained on that students report record within the system. So, you can go to the console, you can pull up that user level report, and you can see all the incidents, whether they’re active or close and all of that history associated with it.
So if they are repeatedly generating incidents, you’ll have that information.
Those are all of the questions that we’ve had today. Thank you, Dr. Cornell and Rob for both of your very valuable insights and has been a pleasure to moderate this discussion.
Just a quick reminder, there will be a survey at the end of this webinar whenever you leave. If you fill that out, we will send you a $15 Amazon gift card.
A second reminder that we have recorded this session, we will be sending the link to the recording once we conclude.
And last but not least, we had a webinar with Tech and Learning on Wednesday, April 14th, if you would like to join us, talking about how we can use technology to help address student mental health issues.
And, with all of those reminders being said, thank you, again, for joining us today to our presenters and to our audience members. It has been a pleasure. Thank you again, and I hope we can see you next time.
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