Threat Assessment

#IStandWithAhmed and what we can do about it.

It's great that "#IStandWithAhmed" is going viral , but there is a reason schools keep making poor decisions about student “threats” that end up on the news, in court, or going viral (see also: kid with ‘magic’ ring, kid with pop-tart ‘gun’, kid with finger ‘guns’ etc etc).

Few if any K-12 schools have been trained in the effective and evidence-based method of identifying, assessing, and managing student threats. When schools utilize threat assessment management teams, they are able to quickly gather facts and indicators to determine: “Is there real danger here?” “Do we need to involve law enforcement?” “What do we need to do to keep kids safe?”.

In Ahmed's case, that should have been a "no", "no", and "nothing".

Schools today face a difficult barrage of angsty Facbook posts (is that a threat?) off-hand comments (is that a threat?) Snapchat "jokes" about planning school shootings (is that a threat?) and just kids being kids. Somewhere in the dizzying array are the very rare, yet very real, instances of actual school shooters.

When schools have a formalized, efficient means to analyze, assess, (and if necessary manage with appropriate supports and interventions) students who might be at risk for violence against themselves or others, they can more readily determine that students like Ahmed, or the student wielding the “one ring to rule them all”, don’t actually pose a danger. Educators can quickly pull together the knowledge that is out there to determine if a student is really, truly a threat.

To be clear, Threat Assessment Management isn’t a magical cure-all to prevent violence in our schools. The shooter at Arapahoe High School seemingly was “screened” by a rudimentary process resembling threat assessment, and the educators there made the difficult, and ultimately incorrect judgement call that he was not a danger to others.

However, a 15 minute meeting of a Threat Assessment Management team in Ahmed’s case should have quickly resulted in an internal investigation and the finding of facts clearly showing that the “threat” posed by Ahmed and his clock was no threat at all.

Conversely, had a Threat Assessment team convened to discuss the shooter at Sandy Hook’s 5th grade writing, “The Big Book of Granny” (about a grandma who shoots kids using her gun-cane and taxidermies them) they would have looked at ALL the facts and circumstances in his life, and noted that he was already engaging in behaviors that caused concern. (We know from the Safe School Initiative Study  that 87% of school shooters engaged in behaviors, prior to the event that caused concern.)

According to the U.S. Department of Education, Threat Assessment Management is “one of the most useful tools” schools can use to keep ALL kids safe at school. Does your school or district have a trained Threat Assessment team? Probably not. If you #StandWithAhmed , click the button below for more information about how YOUR school can implement Threat Assessment Management.

The Educator’s School Safety Network is a national, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides school safety training, resources, and technical assistance to schools and universities throughout the US and Canada.